With such a star studded cast backing it, it’s somewhat surprising how mediocre Rio turns out. In fact, not only does it feel mediocre, but it feels all too familiar. Haven’t we seen several other animated films just like this? Rote and often uninspired, Rio feels more like filler than anything else. The occasional witty moment just isn’t enough to make up for what ultimately ends up being just another animated money grab that somehow managed to attract an A-list cast. While it may entertain the kiddies for a while, for the older folks out there (and that means anyone 10+), this one is just another animated yawner.
In a plot that feels reminiscent of most other animated films, a blue Macaw aptly named Blu (Jesse Eisenberg), is taken to Brazil by his owner Linda (Leslie Mann). The purpose of their trip is to have Blu mate with Jewel (Anne Hathaway), the last remaining bird in the subspecies that Blu belongs to. As expected, not all goes as planned and Blu and Jewel are bird-napped by a smuggler who has a nasty cockatoo named Nigel (Jermaine Clement). Although mis-matched at first, Jewel and Blu have to learn to work together if they ever want to gain their freedom and return to their owners. Their adventures will take them through the jungles of Rio, the Carnival celebration and more.
The story stays in such familiar territory that it never takes flight, it’s afraid to leave the nest, constantly sticking to familiar territory and never taking a chance. All the children’s film cliches are here and there is a severe lack of originality. Director Carlos Saldanha never tries anything new as Rio hits on all the notes you’d expect it to. It’s a formulaic and paint by the numbers animated movie that in a Pixar dominated era, really has no business being here. The plot is as generic as they get, the song and dance numbers aren’t at all memorable or catchy and the stilted dialogue makes us sympathize with the actors. And talk about wrapping up neatly, this film’s ending couldn’t be anymore nice and tidy.
As we run through the animated film checklist, we start to see how shockingly lame the film is. All the staples of the genre are here. Everything from the reluctant couple to the domesticated animal now out in the wild. And that’s what really hurts the film, it’s just so damn generic. Making matters worse is that all the jokes here are targeted at the 5-10 year old range. Older audiences won’t find the film remotely funny.
While watching I was waiting for those witty ‘adult’ moments or the subtle adult material that so many other top notch animation films have, but it just never came. It’s all dull and it’s the type of stuff that will only have the young ones laughing. This automatically takes the film out of the family genre and puts it aptly into the children’s film genre. Nothing here will go over your child’s head, because it’s all aimed directly at them.
Visually the film is solid but not extraordinary. The colour palette is bright and vivid and often appealing but the animation itself isn’t great, especially when compared to other films in the genre. The backdrops of Rio look fine but the characters just don’t hold up. The 3D isn’t great either and with like so many other films these days, it’s just a money grab. It doesn’t exactly help the film but then again it doesn’t harm it, it’s kind of just there.
If the film has anything going for it, it’s the voice acting, which is pretty good on all fronts. Highlights include Clement, Eisenberg and Jamie Foxx but really everyone does a good job. It’s a bit weird at first to hear Mark Zuckerberg’s voice come out of a bird’s mouth but I promise you’ll get used to it, despite picturing Eisenberg in his Social Network role every time he talks. Some of the actors are really pushed to the side though, constantly trying to fight their way through the far too high number of secondary/tertiary characters. A few less characters and some more development to the more enjoyable ones would have been appreciated.
Overall, Rio won’t do much for you, unless you’re under 10 of course. It’s generic, dull and doesn’t have much going for it. If you have kids you can consider taking them to see it but just don’t expect much enjoyment for yourself. To be honest, it’s so children-geared at times that it’s just maddening to watch. And it’s a shame, because with the gorgeous Rio setting and the star studded cast, the film really could have been great. But like our protagonist Blu, the film is too timid and scared to try anything outside its comfort zone. Perhaps someone should of told the filmmakers to spread their wings and fly.