Top critical review
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on 22 November 2015
Blu and Jewel head back to the Amazon in Rio 2 starring Anne Hathaway, Jesse Eisenberg, Leslie Mann, Jamie Foxx, Rodrigo Santoro, Andy Garcia, Rita Moreno, Bruno Mars, and Kristin Chenoweth. Is this sequel a fun improvement to the original or is it pretty much for the birds?
Blu and Jewel are Blue Spix’s Macaws that live in Rio de Janeiro with their three children under the care of their owners who run the Brazilian Bird Clinic and Sanctuary. Blu is a domesticated bird from Minnesota and Jewel was rescued from the wild when it was thought she was the last known female of her species. The two birds now raise their children and teach them what they know. Blu makes pancakes and lets the kids watch TV and listen to music on MP3 players. Jewel tries to teach her children survival skills from the wild, but the kids think it’s lame. Blu is happy living the domesticated lifestyle, but Jewel yearns to be in the wild.
Meanwhile in the Amazon rainforest, Blu and Jewel’s owners are releasing a rehabilitated bird back into the wild. They get back into their canoe and row down the river. Unbeknownst to them, the river is filled with rapids and a large water fall. The canoe is tossed and turned all over the place and eventually crashes on a secluded river bed. They get out and make a huge discovery: more Blue Spix’s Macaws exist. Tulio and Linda stumble upon a large flock of Macaws that survived the rainforest’s deforestation by creating a new habitat far away from human destruction.
The discovery makes Brazilian network television which Blu and Jewel are watching. Excited that more birds exist, Jewel wants to fly with the family back to the Amazon to see if she can find some of her long-lost relatives. Blu reluctantly agrees to the trip, but not without packing his fanny pack full of supplies and his GPS. Along with Pedro, Nico, and Rafael who are trying to recruit singing talent for their Carnivale festival, the flock of feathery friends head off on their journey. Unfortunately for Blu and Jewel the trip and reunion are not going to be as easy as they hope, because a villain from Blu’s past wants revenge and a human logging boss wants to take Jewel’s family sanctuary permanently away.
I’m not going to lie, I’m a big kid at heart who still watches cartoons and animated movies. Some movies like Toy Story, How to Train Your Dragon, and The Lego Movie break all boundaries and molds because they have universal appeal to both adults and children. Some movies like Walking With Dinosaurs and Happy Feet movies pander to kids and are pure torture for parents to watch. The first Rio movie was pretty good. My kids loved the talking animals and the music. I thought the movie had a nice story and good visuals. The movie wasn’t amazing, but because we all enjoyed it, we were looking forward to the sequel. Unfortunately Rio 2 completely shifted my opinion. My kids still really liked it because of the talking animals, but the movie’s plot is completely obscured by overly used and forgettable musical numbers. Rio 2 is basically a boring mix of Happy Feet and Meet the Parents.
As a father of four kids, I watch a ton of family movies. I’m not going to lie, I’m a big kid at heart who still watches cartoons and animated movies. Some movies like Toy Story, How to Train Your Dragon, and The Lego Movie break all boundaries and molds because they have universal appeal to both adults and children. Some movies like Walking With Dinosaurs and Happy Feet movies pander to kids and are pure torture for parents to watch. The first Rio movie was pretty good. My kids loved the talking animals and the music. I thought the movie had a nice story and good visuals. The movie wasn’t amazing, but because we all enjoyed it, we were looking forward to the sequel. Unfortunately Rio 2 completely shifted my opinion. My kids still really liked it because of the talking animals, but the movie’s plot is completely obscured by overly used and forgettable musical numbers. Rio 2 is basically a boring mix of Happy Feet and Meet the Parents.
The major problem I had with Rio 2, is that three other subplots overshadow the main story and convolutes the entire movie. There is the human environmentalist story which involves Linda (Leslie Mann) and Tulio (Rodrigo Santoro) battling against the destruction of the bird’s habitat by a logging company ran by Big Boss (Miquel Ferrer). Big Boss loves lollipops and so does his pet monkey. There is a feathered revenge and taboo love story involving Nigel the Cockatoo (Jermaine Clement) and the poisonous tree frog Gabi (Kristen Chenoweth) who longs for his affection. Nigel was the evil bird from the first movie, but because of his accident, he no longer can fly. He rides around on an anteater named Charlie and is modeled after Chaplin. Nigel wants Blu to pay for all his misfortune. The final subplot involves Nico (Jamie Foxx), Pedro (will.i.am), and Rafael (George Lopez) looking for singers to be showcased in their Carnivale festival parade. To me, this part of the movie was completely unnecessary as the movie turned into a horrible version of Happy Feet filling the movie with too many pop songs. The movie felt like a Brazilian version of America’s Got Talent or American Idol. The first movie had songs, but I liked them because I felt they showcased the sounds and culture of Brazil. In Rio 2, there are so many musical numbers that after a while just became annoying. It would be one thing if the movie had memorable songs like Frozen’s “Do you Want to Build a Snowman” and “Let it Go,” but I honestly can’t remember one song or even what any of the lyrics were except for Nigel singing a rendition of Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive.” Tracy Morgan as Luiz the Bulldog does make an appearance, but because he cannot fly to the Amazon, he’s barely featured except in the very beginning and the very end. He’s basically in the movie to drool all over everything. The problem with all these subplots is that the movie completely looses any type of identity. I even asked my kids what they loved about the movie, and all they said was the birds and the music, but had no other clue what the rest of the movie was about.
The movie is written and directed by Carlos Saldanha who not only directed the first Rio movie, but also the first three Ice Age movies. As you can see, he is Blue Sky’s go to director. Visually Rio 2 is as spectacular as the first. You can see all the details in the feathers, leaves, grass, and animal hair. I also thought the 3D looked great as the birds looked like they were flying off-screen. But as I said before the story leaves a lot to be desired, so the movie is more a visual experience.
Rio 2 is not ungodly horrible, it’s just forgettable. The characters are animated quite well and look as realistic as they can in a cartoony sort of way, but none really stood out as being awesome. The main character I didn’t like was Nigel. Yes he is the villain, but he’s not even a cool one. All in all Rio 2 was entertaining for the kids, but a bit mediocre for grown ups.
I thought the sequel was quite forgettable. Visually it did look spectacular, especially the 3D, but the plot and characters barely added anything substantial. Of course if your kids drag you to the theater, because what kid doesn’t like singing and dancing animals, you won’t hate yourself. It is not as god awful as Happy Feet, which also just so happens to be a musical bird movie, but there is really nothing fantastic or original to recommend packing up the kids to rush to theaters. Take my advice and just buy or rent Rio on DVD or Blu-ray and enjoy a family movie night at home. It will be a lot cheaper and a better experience.