Genre: CG Animation
Director: Carlos Saldanha
Cast: Anne Hathaway, Jesse Eisenberg, will.i.am, Jemaine Clement, Tracy Morgan, George Lopez, Leslie Mann, Rodrigo Santoro, Jamie Foxx. Andy Garcia, Rita Moreno, Bruno Mars, Kristin Chenoweth
RunTime: 1 hr 42 mins
Released By: 20th Century Fox
Official Website: https://www.facebook.com/RioMovies
Opening Day: 10 April 2014
Synopsis: The entire cast of the animated smash RIO returns in RIO 2, and they are joined by a new flock of top actors and musical talents. Rich with grandeur, character, color and music, RIO 2 finds Jewel (Anne Hathaway), Blu (Jesse Eisenberg) and their three kids leaving their domesticated life in that magical city for a journey to the Amazon. They encounter a menagerie of characters who are born to be wild, voiced by Oscar nominee Andy Garcia, Oscar/Emmy/Tony-winner Rita Moreno, Grammy winner Bruno Mars, and Tony winner Kristin Chenoweth.
Coming off a snappy and clever original, this sequel which is once again helmed by Brazilian director Carlos Saldanha and voiced by pretty much the same cast members feels lazy and perfunctory by comparison. In place of the playful vivaciousness of 2011’s surprise hit is a frenetic hodgepodge of carefully engineered sequences that aim to be family sitcom one minute, a “fish out of water” premise the next, an environmental primer the next, and even an avian-based episode of “American Idol”.
The excuse for the overcrowded story is the discovery by Blu’s (Jesse Eisenberg) human keepers Tulio and Linda (Rodrigo Santoro and Leslie Mann) during an expedition into the Amazon rainforest that the blue macaws might not be quite so endangered as they had originally feared. That is enough for Jewel (Anne Hathaway) to convince Blu to take their brood of three on an expedition to meet their long-lost ancestors, despite the latter Minnesota-raised macaw’s continued reliance on manmade gadgets stuffed into his fanny pack, including an all-purpose multi-tool and GPS navigation.
Returning to join in the fun deep in the heart of the jungle are Blu’s pals - the party-hearty toucan Rafael (George Lopez) and his sidekicks, Nico (Jamie Foxx) and Pedro (the Black Eyed Peas' will.i.am) - but this time, they have to contend for attention with Jewel’s long-lost family, led by her proud authoritarian father Eduardo (Andy Garcia) and former childhood playmate Roberto (Bruno Mars). Further adding to the character clutter is Blu’s former nemesis Nigel (Jemaine Clement), whose quest for vengeance finds company in the form of an adoring protégé - the poisonous frog Gabi (Kristin Chenoweth).
Oh and did we mention that there is also a group of illegal loggers who are desperate to keep all human attention out of the patch of forest? As you’ve probably guessed, that’s just yet another one of many plot strands in the crowded yet underdeveloped script by the quartet of Don Rhymer (who passed away in 2012), Carlos Kotkin, Jenny Bicks and Yoni Brenner. Whereas the original bothered with wit and invention, the writers here seem to have adopted a ‘go-for-broke’ attitude, which explains why there are half-hearted musical interludes amidst a “Meet the Parents” equivalent that frankly reveal a hackneyed and insincere narrative.
The occasional puns aside, Saldanha compensates for the lack of any real sense of character and story by keeping things busy and hectic throughout. Making full use of the jungle backdrop, Saldanha ups the ante on the visual imagery, whether is it the plentiful song-and-dance numbers or the raucous action sequences. Aided once again by Sergio Mendes’ presence as executive music producer, the former pop off the screen especially in a showcase of the macaws’ synchronized flying routines set to Brazilian body-percussion group Barbatuques’ ‘Beautiful Creatures’, as well as in a Carnaval-styled procession in the Amazon right at the end.
But despite the striking colourful aesthetic and the carnival-like atmosphere complete with plenty of samba and bossa nova music, older audiences will find themselves struggling to make it through even a relatively modest running time. Indeed, the diversions may work for the kids, but there is something scattershot about the entire enterprise that is hard to ignore, in particular coming off an extremely good year in animation with Disney's instant modern classic ‘Frozen’ and Warner Bros' ‘The Lego Movie’. There is little to hook our imagination nor our attention once you look past the vivid scenery, and even less poignancy this time round with Blu pretty much left out in the blue no thanks to an overstuffed story.
On their part, the voice actors do their darnest best with each and every one of their respective roles - though the scene-stealer here is Clement, whose interactions with Chenoweth as his poison-frog sidekick are probably the most entertaining parts of the movie. But the chuckles come fewer and further in between than in the first outing to ‘Rio’, and despite being just as bright and cheerful on the outside, there is too little story, too many characters and too few decent gags to warrant this trip to the Amazon. You can take the birds out of Rio, but as much as the filmmakers have tried, there’s no transplanting Rio into the Amazon, which probably explains why this incongruently titled sequel possesses few of what made its predecessor such a crowd-pleasing delight.
(Don't go looking for 'Rio' in the Amazon - despite the same striking colourful visuals, this Amazon-set sequel suffers from a distinct lack of story, character, humour and poignancy)