Judge Patrick Naugle has an irrational fear of animated birds.
Our review of Rio, published July 18th, 2011, is also available.
It's every bird for himself!
Producer: "Alright, time to make some more money. What have you guys
Facts of the Case
Blu (Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network) is a super rare blue macaw owned by the shy but cute Linda (Leslie Mann, Knocked Up), a Minnesota native who loves Blu unconditionally. Blu has a very easy first fifteen years with Linda; playing, eating and generally enjoying his life. When a nice but clumsy Brazilian ornithologist, Tulio (Rodrigo Santoro), offers to take Blu to Rio so he can mate with another rare blue macaw named Jewel (Anne Hathaway, Alice in Wonderland), Linda is skeptical but gives in. Things go awry when Blu's love interest doesn't reciprocate and the two birds are kidnapped by conniving thieves. Now Blu and Jewel must find their way back home before they are sold off and shipped away…forever!
Am I the only one who's a bit burned out by movies about talking animals? In the pantheon of CGI filmmaking—well, any animation, really—it appears the cutsie talking animal movie is what takes precedent these days. Fish that are actually suburban house moms! Penguins that are super spies! Grizzly bears that are actually middle class businessmen! How many more movies do I have to sit through featuring some of mother nature's finest organisms playing what are essentially human Xeroxes (only with more hair, wings or sharper claws)? I'd say Hollywood is beating a dead horse, but that horse is still kicking as well as playing tennis and driving a pick up truck.
But I digress. Here comes Rio, an animated feature about talking birds and other tropical creatures whom all sound like famous movie stars (natch). The film was made by the same people who brought us the Ice Age movies and while it's very nice to look at there isn't as much going on under its feathers as it'd like you to think. The movie doesn't really have much of a story and what story there is feels cribbed from dozens of other animated movies (especially Dreamworks Madagascar franchise and Finding Nemo). The main characters spend most of the movie wandering around a tropical/exotic city landscape while falling in love with each other. If you've ever wanted to see a couple of Boston Market meals share goo-goo eyes with each other, Rio is going to be right up your alley.
One of my biggest complaints about Rio—and, really, many computer animated films—is that it features big name talent doing the voice work. Little kids may not know the difference, but I find it distracting when A-list talent are featured as the main characters. I realize this may be my own personal issues that need ironing out with some therapy, but I cannot get past hearing Anne Hathaway or Jessie Eisenberg behind the lead Macaws. It's distracting and it takes me out of the movie imagining the actors recording their work in a small, sound proof booth. Also, Eisenberg and Hathaway are both some of the least enticing voices I've heard in an animated movie in a long time (Hathaway tries to bring some pluck to the role but it never feels like enough). I hope this is the last movie where I have to hear George Lopez as a toucan and Tracy Morgan as a bulldog. The only character I was halfway interested in was Jermaine Clement (Gentlemen Broncos) as the villainous Nigel, a nasty bird with an amusing accent. Even Leslie Mann can't interject much excitement into the picture, and she's usually the bright spot of any movie she's featured in.
On the plus side Rio is certainly attractive to look at. Although the character design doesn't feel very original or unique (the human characters look generically silly and the animals all look like…well, animals), the movie's bright color palate will surely thrill young ones. The landscape of Rio lends itself to the movie's overall theme; deep blues and lush greens are on display here making it eye candy for your entire family. The music is also very good with a score by John Powell that is upbeat and exotic; it's probably one of the best parts of the movie.
I don't want to rain on Rio's parade because I think it's a movie that children will enjoy. I'm sure there are a lot of adults out there who will also get a kick out of it as well. Yet, I couldn't shake that "been there, seen that" feeling as I sat through the film. There isn't anything here that hasn't been done better by Pixar or Disney. Rio knows how to shake a tailfeather, it just doesn't know how to do it with any originality.
Rio is presented in 2.40:1 widescreen in glorious 1080p resolution. While the movie may be lackluster, no one will accuse this transfer of being anything other than stunningly clear, colorful and near perfect. 20th Century Fox has done a great job with this image as the characters and surrounds are all excellently rendered with much attention to detail throughout. Fans of the film will be universally happy with how this picture looks.
The soundtrack is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and sounds excellent. There are many moments where the surround speakers are fully engaged. Whenever there isn't action on the screen there is usually ambient noise of some kind moving through the soundscape. Overall this is a very good audio presentation that also includes Spanish and French Dolby 5.1 mixes as well as English and Spanish subtitles.
There are a fair amount of extra features; including a deleted scene at a fruit stand, some featurettes on the production and voice over work ("Explore the World of Rio," "Saving the Species: One Voice at a Time," "The Making of Hot Wings," "The Real Rio," "Boom Boom, Tish Tish: The Sound of Brazil"), some animated dance lessons ("Carnival Dance-o-Rama"), "Welcome to Rio" music video (with Eisenberg and Hathaway), a Taio Cruz music video for "Telling the World," a feature that allows you to access music from the film, a customized postcard feature ("Postcards from Rio"), a trailer for the Angry Birds: Rio game (plus a couple of minute long videos), a theatrical trailer and some BD-Live features.
Rio is a fine kid's diversion but won't do much for adults looking for
a solid story and fascinating characters.
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