In “Rio” nerd actor du jour Jesse Eisenberg plays, what else, a nerdy birdy—a domesticated macaw—small-town Minnesota named Blu. He’s never learned to fly, but enjoys a happy and healthy life with his owner and BFF Linda (Leslie Mann). When they discover the last remaining ladybird blue macaw (voice of Anne Hathaway) in the world lives in Rio de Janeiro they make the journey to find her, but their plan lays an egg. Instead they encounter kidnappers and an evil cockatoo named Nigel (Jemaine Clement). On the upside perhaps Blu will finally learn to fly.
Let’s get the 800 pound elephant—or in this case, the big blue bird—out of the way right away. Let me say that “Rio” has an OK story and sparkling animation but it really lacks the depth of a Pixar film. Maybe I’m spoiled, but when I watch animated movies, whether they are Dreamworks, or, like this one, from Fox, I can’t help but think, “What would the wizards at Pixar have done with this story?”
Don’t get me wrong, “Rio” is perfectly serviceable. It’s colorful and filled with nice little touches like a little bird who warms himself against a traffic light, flitting back-and-forth between the red and green lights, in snowy Minnesota, but for all the nice little touches and exciting flying scenes the movie isn’t particularly memorable. It’ll keep the little ones occupied in the theatre—although very little kids may find some of the action a bit too intense—and has a good enviro message about wild animals and their treatment, but there’s no real sticky content here.
The lead voice work is adequate, nothing special from the above the title stars, but will.i.am, Jamie Foxx, Tracy Morgan—as a drooling bulldog in a Carmen Miranda fruit salad hat—and particularly Jemaine Clement—who has a show stopping song—help the movie take flight with fun supporting vocal work.
“Rio” is a good enough Saturday afternoon matinee with the kids, unfortunately for me it lacks the zip I have come to expect from animated entertainment. Sorry “Rio” but I can only imagine Pixar could come up with a more imaginative name for a blue macaw than Blu.