RIO. 96 mins. G. Directed by Carlos Saldanha.
Rio is a cheery, colorful animated film that kids are sure to dig. The script is serviceable, and avoids any real missteps. The animation by Blue Sky Studios (Ice Age, Horton Hears a Who) is crisp and playful. The voicework by actors like Jesse Eisenberg and Anne Hathaway is charming. There is nothing really wrong with the movie - I'd go so far as to call it good - but it lacks that certain...something.
Even as I was entertained by it, I was plagued by a nagging sense that this is just an efficient, assembly line production. Cute animals? Check. Exotic locale? Check. Will.i.am song? Check. Rio
is pre-programmed to generically appeal to everyone. I can't imagine anyone not liking it. But I also can't imagine anyone loving it either.
Eisenberg voices Blu, a domesticated blue macaw and companion to a nerdy bookstore owner named Linda (Leslie Mann). Blu travels to Rio de Janeiro so he can mate with another macaw named Jewel (Hathaway) and their species can avoid extinction. But the two are quickly bird-napped, setting off a series of madcap events involving a slobbery bulldog (Tracy Morgan), a match-making pelican (George Lopez), and lots of narrow escapes.
The plot may be run-of-the-mill, but the timing of Rio is spot-on. With the weather as bad as it is right now, and Spring Break in full swing, what better way to escape than to a movie featuring a beautifully animated tropical wonderland? The Rio de Janeiro depicted here is much more enticing than the one seen in City of God. All of the colors on screen are heightened for your viewing pleasure. There is a stunning scene on top of a cliff where Blu tries to learn how to fly that will leave you whispering to yourself (in true Liz Lemon fashion): I want to go to there.
I recognize that not every animated film can achieve Pixar-levels of greatness. Rio isn't aiming for that. The real question here is how does it stack up against other animated options this year? Way better than Hop, a step above Gnomeo & Juliet, but it's no Rango.