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Thursday, April 17, 2014 12:01 am

Rio 2 a Vibrant, Predictable Animated Affair


Much of the same is at play in Rio 2, the sequel to the surprise 2011 hit that dealt with the misadventures of Blu (voice by Jesse Eisenberg), a Spix’s Macaw raised in the frigid wilds of Minnesota of all places, who finds out that he’s not the last of his breed when he’s shipped to Rio de Janeiro to meet Jewel (Anne Hathaway) the last of female of his kind. This gave director Carlos Saldanha the excuse to create a vibrant, loving tribute to his hometown as the city was seen as a festive metropolis brimming with life and possibilities.

 Rio 2 shifts locations, as most of the action takes place in the jungles surrounding the Amazon River, but it’s just as joyous and bright as its predecessor as it celebrates the strength that comes from family and friends. Attempting to settle in to their new home and roles as parents, Blu and Jewel are whisked away to unfamiliar environs when their ornithologist owners Tulio (Rodrigo Santoro) and Linda (Leslie Mann) discover a group of Spix’s while released a rare bird along the Amazon. Once the newly-marrieds meet this new flock, Jewel discovers that her father (Andy Garcia) is among them as well as her old flame Roberto (Bruno Mars). Bad enough Blu is feeling out of place amidst all his new relations but he must also contend with his old nemesis Nigel (Jermaine Clement) who’s out to exact vengeance.

The film touches briefly on the evils of the deforestation of the Amazon Rainforest, a token mention as if to assuage Saldanha’s conscience, as he’s far more interested in the animated Busby Berkeley musical numbers that dominate much of the movie. Thankfully, these sequences are imaginatively executed and a joy to take in. It comes as no surprise that the highlight is executed by Broadway veteran Kristin Chenoweth, a welcome addition as the tree frog Gabi who believes that her touch will prove lethal to her love Nigel, who’s clueless where her affections are concerned, which she laments with the song Poisonous Love. The scene follows the standard approach the film takes with the music getting louder and louder and the visuals becoming more and more manic as the song goes on. However, Chenoweth, with her expressive voice cuts through the mania to convey her character’s angst.

The usual suspects are on hand throughout with George Lopez, Tracy Morgan, Will I Am reprising their roles of Rafael, Luiz and Pedro respectively. They provide the broad comedy that will appeal to the little ones as the adults search for something in the narrative to hold their interest. For what it is – a standard animated feature that’s a pleasant timewaster - Rio 2 does all we expect it to. That it does little more is as regrettable as it is expected.

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.

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