The title of Rio 2 is a little misleading. When we last visited the only two surviving cerulean-shaded macaws, Blu (Jesse Eisenberg) & Jewel (Anne Hathaway), they were enduring a madcap semi-flight through Rio de Janiero. Now Blu has been relegated to the Amazon jungle because changing the setting of a sequel is an all-important task in Hollywood. This is, of course, a sequel that exists only because the first one performed exceptionally well for Blue Sky Entertainment. Blu now enjoys life with Jewel and their baby birds, but they still squabble over his tendency to, you know, not act like a f*cking bird. Jewel desires a return to nature and bird-ly ways. iPhones and pancakes are not as sexy as foraging in the wild for food. Who knew?
The film’s awkward transition to the Amazon is helpfully supplied by Blu’s old owners, Linda (Leslie Mann) and Tulio (Rodrigo Santoro), who discover that other Spix’s macaws may still exist deep in the jungle. So off they go. Blu soon encounters Jewel’s long-lost family. The movie swiftly turns into a Meet the Parents interlude with Andy Garcia voicing Eduardo (in the Robert De Niro role), who has no use for Blu’s domesticated ways. Not helping Blu’s situation is the sudden appearance of Bruno Mars as Jewel’s silk-voiced old friend, Roberto (a Rico Suave type), who is much more attractive than a male bird wearing a fanny pack. Poor Blu.
Director Carlos Saldanha (the Ice Age franchise) is back with more frenetic action and colorful extravaganza with the aid of musical madness. Actually, this sequel is almost a full-blown musical. None of the songs are standouts, but Anne Hathaway gets her own number, which is fun. Annie’s got a great voice, and she hasn’t been around much (by design) since her turn in Les Miserables. Kristen Chenowith adorably voices a lovelorn frog named Gabi, who also belts out tunes at the nearest opportunity. There is also a rendition of Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” that I could have, uh, survived without hearing. Along with the family conflict plot, there are plenty of other distractions to be had in this film.
Rio 2 is one of those many animated movies made to entertain without too much thought. There are a few lessons, but mayhem mostly prevails. Nigel (Jemaine Clement) is back to stir sh-t up with Blu. Also returning are the crazed trio of colorfully feathered birds — Nico (Jamie Foxx), Rafael (George Lopez), Pedro (will.i.am) — to add to the chaos. Kids will enjoy these returning characters, who serve to distract us from missing the more interesting Carnivale atmosphere of the first movie. Most of the characters are mere noise, but I quite enjoyed Blu vying against Roberto for Jewel’s affections. Now that Blu has to do something to impress Jewel beyond being the only other blue macaw she knows, his character gets a hell of a lot more interesting. That’s about all that I truly enjoyed out from this movie.
Rio 2 is an overly packed candy confection but nothing more. The writers even found a way to work in the World Cup (how timely). Adults will find little to amuse, but that’s fine. This movie shall perform well on future heavy rotation while parents tune out and get sh-t done at home. Ain’t nothing wrong with that, right grown ups? The film’s screenwriters attempt to toss in a few lessons for the kiddies (save nature and stop relying on technology!). The script tosses in the obligatory threat by a developer to chop down the forest, which is lazy. But there’s nothing too sticky and overbearing. Thank goodness. Too much business in the plot wouldn’t be aided by preachiness. The kids will understand just fine how to appreciate nature. Leave them alone. Let them have their popcorn and sodas, but encourage them to recycle those damn 3-D glasses. That’s a better lesson than Rio 2 could ever aim to teach.
Bedhead lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She can be found at Celebitchy.