Sunday, April 17, 2011

Rio 3D Review

How does one make a G rated movie about the birds and the bees? The new animated feature Rio is basically about the propagation of a species. The story of Rio is the attempt to preserve the species of blue macaw by mating Blu (Jesse Eisenberg) with a female blue macaw named Jewel. (Anne Hathaway) Of course this being a family film, you're not going to see hot bird sex.

Rio starts out in a Brazilian rain forest where a baby Blue is abducted and shipped to the United States, specifically Minnesota. As he is being transported by an exotic pets dealer, his crate falls out and he is rescued by a young girl, Linda. Both Linda (Leslie Mann) and Blu grow up. Linda becomes a proprietor of a book shop and Blue is a bird living the high life. Blu is so pampered that he's lost the ability to fly.

There lives change when a Brazilian ornithologist, Tulio (Rodrigo Santoro) comes into the shop and asks Linda if they can take Blu to Brazil so he can mate with the only living female blue macow, Jewel. She agrees. As Blu is left with the lovely Jewel, they're kidnapped by pet poachers and chained together. They escape with the poachers and their mean cockatoo Nigel (Jemaine Clement) in pursuit.

Director-writer Carlos Saldanha (Ice Age) has constructed a very busy CGI animated film with all the color of Brazil. And that's one problem with this movie. It's too busy. Take for instance a fight scene between monkeys and birds. You'll need to take notes to figure out who is fighting who and who gets thrown where. There's no need for all this convoluted action. The 3D version of this film is nice to look at with some nice shots of Rio but the 3D adds nothing to the story or the look of the movie. There's nothing special about the 3D effects. So, if you're on a tight budget, skip the 3D version.

Of course, if you're going to use Rio as a backdrop for a movie, you've got to have Brazilian music. Brazilian jazz. Bossa Nova. Samba. Rio has Sergio Mendes supervise the music. There is Brazilian music. And when Mendes' Mas Que Nada (video below) is heard the film does take off. But it seems to me the great Brazilian rhythms of the samba were toned down by the sound engineers. Maybe it's too much for kids. But come on, it's not heavy metal. Those great Brazilian sambas make you want to dance. And I wished they would stop trying to make Brazilian music digestible to western audiences by stuffing hip hop into it. The bossa nova works just fine by itself especially during a love song as Blu and Jewell ride on a bus.

Jesse Eisenberg is good as the awkward Blu. Will i Am, Jamie Foxx and Tracy Morgan are funny as a couple birds and a slobbering bulldog. Wanda Sykes and Jane Lynch are wasted as a couple of geese. Leslie Mann is fine as Blu' owner. However, the humans are not as interesting as the birds. But it's Anne Hathaway's performance that matches the lovely Jewel. Her voice captures the beauty of Jewel and of course her own physical beauty. It's easy to fall in love with her voice.

It's impossible to dislike this movie. The romance between Jewel and Blu has electricity. And there are many funny and warm moments. The grade is B+.

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