'Rio' makes you want to fly


April 18, 2011|By BOB GARVER | Special to The Herald-Mail
  • Raphael, voiced by George Lopez, Blu (voiced by Jesse Eisenber) and Jewel (voiced by Anne Hathaway) are shown in a scene from "Rio."
Associated Press

 "Rio" is an animated film similar to many other animated films before it.  

Our hero is a pampered pet who has never even met another of his own kind. He is rudely yanked out of his comfort zone and forced to embark on an adventure if he ever wants to get back home.

His best ally is a shrewd female of the same species who hates him at first, then takes pity on him, then becomes his friend, then needs rescuing, then officially falls in love.

The hero, meanwhile, gains an appreciation for the world he's discovered on his journey.  Maybe this new life isn't so bad after all.  

How many times have we seen this formula lately?  "Rango" had it. "Madagascar," "Beverly Hills Chihuahua," and "Alpha and Omega" had variations on it.  "Ice Age 2" had it and it was made by the same team that made "Rio."

Thankfully, "Rio" stars a cast of colorful birds and takes place in the midst of Carnival in Rio de Janeiro. It has enough eye candy to make you forget that the same story has been done many times before.  

Here's how the film fills in the blanks. Blu (voiced by Jesse Eisenberg) is a rare blue macaw that was poached from the rainforest as a baby. He wound up in the caring hands of Linda (voiced by Leslie Mann), who for more than 20 years has loved him unconditionally and never seems to be bothered by the fact that he can't fly.  

Linda is contacted by an ornithologist named Tulio (voiced by Rodrigo Santoro) who convinces her to take Blu to Rio de Janeiro so he can meet a female macaw and save the nearly-extinct species. Blu has never been outside Minnesota, but goes along reluctantly.  

Jewel (voiced by Anne Hathaway), the female macaw, takes an immediate dislike to Blu and hates him even more when she discovers that he can't fly.  

She also hates that they're locked in a rainforest simulator at a Rio research facility. She wants to be back in the wild where she belongs. The setting is about to get a lot worse as both birds are soon poached and chained together.  

The poachers are clumsy humans, but they employ a vicious cockatoo named Nigel (voiced by Jermaine Clement) to make them threatening villains. Poaching was probably good for Blu the first time (he got to live a comfortable life with Linda instead of being a flightless bird alone in the wild), but he wants to be back with Linda and Jewel just wants to be free  The pair get away, but they're still chained together and the poachers want them back.  

The rest of the film is spent on the quest to make things right again. Blu and Jewel are helped by a family-man toucan ( voiced by George Lopez), a pair of partying songbirds (voiced by Jaime Foxx and, and a friendly but revolting bulldog (voiced by Tracy Morgan).  

Sparks eventually fly between Blu and Jewel as well as between Linda and Tulio who have an adventure of their own as they search. The action eventually takes everyone to a Carnival parade where the searching and chasing mixes with dancing and silliness.

There's a lot to like in "Rio" (all the color and creatively-designed birds are a treat for the eyes), most of the jokes are a treat for the ears. We even get a few musical numbers.  

The film's humor is family-friendly. Kids will get all the jokes while adults will only be minimally annoyed.  I laughed loudly myself a few times.  However, I was disappointed by the overly-familiar story, but other aspects of the film made up for it.

The year is far from over, and this isn't saying much, but so far "Rio" is the best movie of 2011.  

Three stars out of five.   

"Rio" is rated G.  Its runtime is 100 minutes.  

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