Not since Pixar’s Up has the decision to release an animated film in 3D been as misguided as with 20th Century Fox’s Rio. From the very first frame of the film you want to toss your glasses aside to better appreciate the beautifully animated scenery of Rio de Janeiro, instead of being saddled with ill fitting frames that darken the colors and every ten minutes or so make a bird’s beak appear to point at you. Thankfully the actual story of Rio is more than enough to make up for the cheap marketing tool, and amazingly propel this tale into anyone’s Best of list for 2011 (so far).
Rio centers around Blu (Jesse Eisenberg), a rare male blue Macaw. Captured by poachers as a baby and sent to the US, he is rescued and raised by a Minnesotan named Linda (Leslie Mann). After being tracked down by a Brazilian ornithologist, Blu and Linda fly to Rio to meet and mate with Jewel (Anne Hathaway), one of the last female blue Macaws known to be in existence. During their first night together, they are kidnapped by poachers, and so begins their misadventures.
This film is an example of the filmmakers firing on all cylinders. Looking over director Carlos Saldanha’s (Ice Age) resume, there is nothing that even comes close to the quality shown in this feature. The acting, the art direction, even the soundtrack is stellar. That being said, I have to give most of the credit to writer Don Rhymer (Big Momma’s House). There are some delicate subjects being brought up for the kiddies to consider here that usually aren’t discussed in light-hearted fare. For example, the poacher that kidnaps Blu and Jewel is actually a kid himself, homeless and hunger on the streets with no one looking out for him. When Blu and Jewel finally make their escape, much of their time is spent arguing over whether it is better to live free and in danger or locked in a cage but safe.
Warts And All
Alas, I’m sad to say not every decision works out for the best. While it has been said that after his Best Actor nomination for The Social Network Jesse Eisenberg can no longer be called a Michael Cera clone, I couldn’t help but wonder how much better Cera would have been as the voice of Blu. Eisenberg’s talents just don’t lend themselves to voicework. Jamie Foxx and Will.I.Am appear as two sidekicks who for much of the film are nothing more than two stereotypical “urban” characters. Also, for once and for all, could someone explain to me what kids love about George Lopez? Is it the fact that he provides a voice in every CGI film that has been produced in the past eight years? Whatever it is, as soon as his character speaks, every child squeals in delight, and I am stunned.
The belly-aching aside, Rio is outstanding. The animation in this film is groundbreaking, and the visuals will blow you away. Take my word for it, this film will not disappoint.