After stumbling with a coldly received original story, Epic, Fox-affiliated CGI animation studio Blue Sky flies back to firmer ground with a tried-and-true property: the sequel to their cheerful 2011 crowd-pleaser Rio, continuing the screwball adventures of Blu and Jewel, the last remaining couple of Spix's macaws in the world. Or so they thought, as the new film posits the possibility of an unknown colony surviving in the deepest jungles of the Amazon, and has the fretful, urban Blu (Jesse Eisenberg) reluctantly following his sassy, spirited now-wife (Anne Hathaway) on an exotic vacation to look for their distant cousins.

     With Brazilian animator and studio mainstay Carlos Saldanha returning at the helm, Rio 2 thankfully extends the playful tone the first film took with the picture-postcard image of Brazil (samba, sun, sea and sex). It also tones down the initial formula of screwball romantic comedy, as Blu and Jewel are here a happily married couple with three kids that run the gamut of contemporary teenage mores, and the Amazon expedition, followed by Blu's buddies, becomes more of a "comedy of remarriage" once Jewel is reunited with her martinet father (Andy Garcia) and her teenage paramour (Bruno Mars).

     For all the breathtaking visual quality of the animation - and a couple more Busby Berkeley-goes-Samba 3D showstopper production numbers - Rio 2 can't quite shake the feeling of déjà vu. The idea of an urban prodigal son returning to a wild family had already been explored in Dreamworks' underwhelming Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa and Rio 2 doesn't set itself apart enough from other continuing tales such as Shrek or even Blue Sky's own Ice Age series. More worrisome is that the father-in-law angle of the plot is too close to the famously unfunny Meet the Parents for comfort, meaning the middle section of the film (overlong by at least a good 15 minutes) sags under its own weight.

     Thankfully, there's a Wile E. Coyote-ish mad villain available - Jemaine Clement's returning psychotic cockadoo Nigel, here channeling his inner Shakespearean diva - and a scene-stealing sidekick in Kristin Chenoweth's impossibly romantic, over-the-top poison frog Gaby. Mr. Saldanha again introduces gently a worthy ecologic message - here about over-exploitation of the natural resources - without letting it overwhelm the fun, and both the opening and final stretches (plus the showstopping production numbers) are well worth the ticket price alone. But, if Rio is to be extended into a third episode, someone should make more an effort on the story side.

USA 2014
101 minutes
Voice cast: Anne Hathaway, Jesse Eisenberg, Jemaine Clement, Kristin Chenoweth,, George Lopez, Bruno Mars, Leslie Mann, Rodrigo Santoro, Rita Moreno, Tracy Morgan, Jake T. Austin, Andy Garcia, Jamie Foxx
Director Carlos Saldanha; screenwriters Don Rhymer, Carlos Kotkin, Jenny Bicks and Yoni Brenner; cinematographer Renato Falcão (colour, widescreen, 3D); composer John Powell; art director Thomas Cardone; editor Harry Hitner; producers Bruce Anderson and John A. Donkin, Twentieth Century-Fox Animation and Blue Sky Studios
Screened March 27th 2014 (distributor advance screening, UCI El Corte Inglés 12)


Popular Posts