Rio 2: May Be a Bit Too Much

By Sandra Olmsted

Director Carlos Saldanha’s head spinning sequel to Rio bombards the audience with tons of musical numbers, a wide variety of musical styles, a huge cast, and multiple plots and subplots. Rio 2, in fact, seems more of a ride on a Scrambler at a carnival than a celebration of Brazil’s Carnival.

The opening of Rio 2 finds the odd couple pair of rare Blue Macaws, former pet Blu (voice of Jesse Eisenberg) and wild bird Jewel (voice of Anne Hathaway), raising a brood of three little macaws (voices of Rachel Crow, Pierce Gagnon and Amandla Stenberg) in travelogue favorite Rio de Janeiro. While Minnesotan Blu, still the city boy at heart, cooks pancakes for the kids and relies on manmade gadgets, like GPS, Jewel, well aware of their families status as the last Macaws, longs for a life in the wild.

Then Linda (voice of Leslie Mann), Blu’s former owner, and Tulio (voice of Rodrigo Santoro), Jewel’s former guardian, come with news they have found a group of Blue Macaws living in the Amazon jungle, and Jewel insists that the family to migrate. Their friends, the toucan Rafael (voice of George Lopez), the cardinal Pedro (voice of Black Eyed Peas’ will.i.am), and the canary Nico (voice of Jamie Foxx) join Blu, Jewel, and family on the perilous 2,000 mile trip.

Once they arrive, the family struggles to adjust to the wild and to gain acceptance by the fiercely independent flock of blue macaws and their patriarch Eduardo (voice of Andy Garcia), his sister Mimi (voice of Rita Moreno), and Roberto (voice of Bruno Mars).  All have a connection to Jewel’s childhood. The environmental theme continues with Eduardo battling encroaching loggers. In addition to tarantulas, piranhas, and boa constrictors, the family is also menaced by Blu’s former nemesis, the cockatoo Nigel (voice of Jemaine Clement) and his sidekick, the poisonous frog Gabi (voice of Kristin Chenoweth), who has an inter species crush on Nigel. The array of wild life represented by the huge cast overwhelms to the point of seeming contrived.

The layers of plots and subplots also seem contrived, but the heart of the film shines with good performances and in the music. Hathaway and Eisenberg have great chemistry even though Blu’s neurotic phobias and anxieties wear thin quickly. Harkening back to Hollywood’s Golden Age musicals, Rio 2’s overwhelming tally of songs and dance numbers includes the memorable lullaby “Don’t Go Away” performed beautifully by Hathaway and the show-stopping send up of Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive,” performed by Chenoweth as the lovelorn Gabi and Clement as the damaged Nigel. In addition to toe-tapping, Brazilian bossa novas and sambas, musical performances include the body-percussion group Barbatuques, will.i.am, Foxx, Crow, Garcia, Rita Moreno, Brazilian national treasure Milton Nascimento, and returning Carlinhos Brown and Sergio Mendes, who also serves as executive music producer. Janelle Monae and Bruno Mars’ more contemporary songs feature prominently on the movie’s already released soundtrack .

In Rio 2, Saldanha, who also directed the hugely popular Ice Age movies, delivers a colorful, beautifully animated, 3-D extravaganza that pays homage to his native Brazil. He also spoofs Flashdance, Meet the Parents, and Hitchcock’s The Birds. Rio 2 may bounce erratically between too many plots and too many musical numbers while preaching about the environment, but it’s fun, too. In theaters now, Rio 2, Twentieth Century Fox Animation presentation, is rated G and runs 101 minutes. (More of Olmsted’s reviews are available at <www.thecinematicskinny.com>.)



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