Don't ask Judge Clark Douglas to explain his reasons for destroying the rainforest.
It's on in the Amazon.
"We're not people, we're birds. We have to get out in the wild and be birds, Blu."
Facts of the Case
A lot has changed for our favorite spix macaw Blu (Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network) since the events of Rio. He's married the lovely Jewel (Anne Hathaway, The Dark Knight Rises), and they now have three kids together. They lead a simple, happy life. Even so, Blu can be a little strict. Given that he and his family members are supposedly the last spix macaws left in existence, it's important that everyone stay extra-safe. However, when Blu's human friend Linda (Leslie Mann, This is 40) discovers that a whole flock of spix macaws are alive and well in the Amazon, Jewel suggests that a family vacation is in order. Soon, Jewel is reunited with her father Eduardo (Andy Garcia, The Godfather: Part III), a friendly-but-tough bird who's extremely skeptical of Blu's fondness for city life. The family reunion has its difficult moments, but everyone will be forced to band together when a villainous logger (Miguel Ferrer, Robocop) turns up and attempts to destroy the rainforest.
Rio 2 is an unnecessary sequel. No big surprise, right? A lot of sequels are unnecessary. Even so, the latest effort from Blue Sky Animation manages to do a below-average job of convincing viewers that it needs to exist. The story told by the first Rio was pretty thin soup to begin with, but Rio 2 (which doesn't even bother to keep the action in Rio) is basically an extended musical video with the faintest hint of a plot tossed on top for good measure.
Lacking any compelling new ideas in the wake of its definitively-concluded predecessor, Rio 2 falls back on a weird animated movie trope: the story of a character attempting to come to terms with the challenges of fatherhood. It's not the worst storytelling idea in the world, but it's an awfully strange recurring theme for animated movies. We saw it in Finding Nemo, the Ice Age sequels, the Shrek sequels, The Croods—the list goes on. Anyway, Rio 2's variation on the idea is a simple one: Blu is always uptight, his kids and wife are pretty free-spirited, conflict ensues. It feels like the sort of idea that was tossed off on a napkin over lunch: "Here, this'll do. Go make your movie."
The film also struggles to find a convincing reason to keep most of the supporting characters from Rio involved. It makes sense that the spix macaws would travel to the Amazon to meet their relatives, but the assorted birds, dogs and other creatures (played by the likes of Jamie Foxx, Tracey Morgan, will.i.am and George Lopez) are shoehorned into the film in a variety of awkward, unconvincing ways. Alas, they're still tired stereotypes. The new characters aren't much better: Andy Garcia's voiceover work as Eduardo feels oddly strained, and the hotshot macaw voiced by Bruno Mars is an irritating source of needless conflict (you see, he has the hots for Jewel, and he's way more charismatic than Blu). Don't even get me started on the villain, a one-note character with no dimension whatsoever. "Tree huggers!" he shouts angrily on multiple occasions, as a reminder that he does not like tree huggers. His "I'm going to kill the macaws for lumber!" subplot is so clunky that it feels like a first draft for the plot of Ferngully 4.
Also making a surprising return: Nigel (Jermaine Clement, Men in Black 3), the villainous cockatoo who was soundly defeated and permanently crippled at the conclusion of the first film. Still, considering that Nigel was the very best thing about the first film, bringing him back seems like a reasonably good idea. Sure enough, he's the best thing here, too. Loosely quoting Shakespeare, riding a giant anteater and accompanied by a poison frog fangirl (Kristen Chenowith, Pushing Daisies), Nigel is the only character in the film who feels genuinely original. Like Scrat in the Ice Age films, he transcends the cinematic environment in which he's been placed. His musical performances are far wittier than the rest of the numbers, and Clement's line deliveries are sublime: "We'll attack at midnight because it's more evil."
Rio 2 (Blu-ray) receives a dazzling 1080p/2.40:1 transfer. As was the case with the first film, there's nothing to complain about the visual department. This is a great-looking film filled to the brim with bright colors, stunning detail and considerable depth. It would make an ideal showcase disc for a Best Buy HDTV display, which is the setting in which the film is probably best appreciated. The DTS HD 7.1 Master Audio track is equally fantastic, highlighting the diverse array of music littered all over the soundtrack. The tunes here are one of the film's high points, from the playfully melodic score by John Powell to the cheerful pop tunes by the likes of Janelle Monae and Bruno Mars. The movie is always a pleasure to listen to, save for much of the dialogue. The film's few action sequences stir up a bit of noise, but the mix is generally immersive regardless of the chaos level.
Supplements tend to be on the kid-centric side, but there are a few things here grown-ups will enjoy. A handful of featurettes are on hand ("Boom, Shake, Snap: The Local Sounds of Brazil," "Birds and Beats: The Singing Talents of Rio 2" and "Nigel the Shakespearean Cockatoo and Friends"), plus a Rio refresher (filling newcomers in on the events of the first film), some fake character auditions, a Janelle Monae "What is Love" music video, a deleted scene, an interactive "Sing-Along Machine," a multi-language "I Will Survive" music video, a stills gallery, trailers, a DVD Copy and a digital copy.
Rio 2 is an attractive audiovisual experience, but the story is laughably flimsy and the characters (save for Nigel) are dull. As usual, kids will like it regardless.
Give us your feedback!
Other Reviews You Might Enjoy
Scales of Justice
• Interactive Feature
Review content copyright © 2014 Clark Douglas; Site design and review layout copyright © 2015 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.