Rated: G Reviewed by: Jim Release date: April 11, 2011 Released by: Twentieth Century Fox
Helmer Carlos Saldanha ingratiates family audiences into faraway, exotic land centering on avians this time in the animated and increasingly entertaining rating-amended Rio.
The man behind the Ice Age franchise gets a palatable, witty narrative from Don Rhymer (Surf's Up) that doesn't get too mushy or preachy as the infusion of a game voice cast (led by Anne Hathaway of Alice In Wonderland and Jesse Eisenberg of The Social Network) with verdant variegated sights have a pretty sensible, contemporary south of the equator snap. Yes, considering the demographic, a romp like this has an initial stasis and predictability as it mainly adheres to its genre conventions (often based on casting), while amiably working off of stereotypes.
Eisenberg's cerulean-hued macaw in Blu was taken as a hatchling to the U.S. where raised in Snow Moose Lake by a little girl Linda. Linda (voiced by Leslie Mann) becomes the bespectacled book shop proprietor who's approached by ornithologist Tulio (Rodrigo Santoro) to relocated (the last of his kind) Blu back to his native land. That means the comfortably domesticate feathery fellow going to the titular Brazilian city so he can mate with the remaining female of his species, Hathaway's perky Jewel.
Of course, their bonding is very tenuous at first, mostly because Blu can't get off the ground. The sometimes turbulent storyline hinges on how Blu and (the bird of his dreams) Jewel (tied together at the leg) respond when snatched by smugglers with a crazed, ugly cockatoo Nigel (Jermaine Clement).
Being in the presence of these characters and placed in elaborate settings that include a beach, a rainforest, and a slum (or favela as some viewers might recall City of God) is advantageous in what has little downtime. A little romance and adventure is helped especially by the comedic, wry presence of locals like cardinal Pedro (a rappin' Will.i.am), romantically-inclined toucan Rafael (George Lopez), and friendly canary Nico (Jamie Foxx), as well as Tracy Morgan's likably chatty Lutz.
Saldanha again skillfully works with his animators and production crew to establish a disarming, mischievous atmosphere as the proceedings lead to the climactic Carnival. There's attitude to burn as the city (and the passion of its denizens) is zestfully captured amid all the zany action and striking aerial scenes. The palette itself is enhanced by a strong depth-of-perspective (even if the popular 3D format still renders some images too dimly). Particular mention should be made to stereoscopic supervisor Jayme Wilkinson who does well with the colors and characters even if their design (in the case of Blu and Jewel may be hampered to a degree).
Still, there's plenty of enjoyment to be had in what may be even slicker in the editing department than the best of Ice Age. A catchy South American rhythm really elevates what is funny and, later, somewhat moving. The vocal turns are mostly pitch-perfect as Eisenberg's mechanically neurotic quality fits well (in a courtship) with a well-seasoned Hathaway. And, there's Jake T. Austin doing a street urchin when Clement isn't hilariously chewing the scenery as the nasty Nigel or monkeys causing havoc.
Rio is fresh and frenetic enough to keep youngsters from fidgeting and canny and definitely bearable and sparkling enough for their older counterparts, a delightful 'walk-on-the-wild-side' diversion that makes its namesake rich with life.