As I sit here thinking how to make this review of the latest animated film to hit theaters, Rio, relevant to the adult readers I’m hoping we get, or hoping we get in the future, I actually thought about inserting Duran Duran lyrics in here. I truly did. Then I realized, I am better than that. Not by much, but I am. And, so is the animated selection in question.
Rio is the story of Jewel and Blu, two Blue Macaws, a species of Macaw once native to the Brazilian rainforest, and their efforts to get back to their respective homes. Blu, voiced by the über talented Jesse Eisenberg, sets out to get back to his owner Linda, voiced by Leslie Mann. Jewel, voiced by Anne Hathaway, is a Blue Macaw who was held in captivity and attempts to part ways with Blu in order to get back to her natural habitat. Unfortunately, the two are stuck together and must find a way to work out their differences.
Rio has several things worth enjoying, but it has the three that always manage to draw me in to the animated arena: talented voice actors, a funny story, and vibrant animation. Despite popular opinion, and what I just stated, an animated film could survive without a big name cast backing it up. If all of the other elements are in place it shouldn’t matter if there are A-listers voicing the characters. The voices should fit the characters and their idiosyncrasies, but more than anything the voice talent has to sell their lines without the use of expression. Not an easy task, which might be why production companies opt to use top tier talent as voice actors. Here, Eisenberg is the perfect choice for the overly neurotic parrot, while Hathaway is quite complementary as the tough, loner counterpart. Other notables are George Lopez, Jemaine Clement, and the aforementioned Leslie Mann.
While the lost [insert item, person, or animal here] angle has been explored ad nauseum, the concept of two birds, set to be mated with each other and wind up on the run from smugglers, gives off the appearance of fresh, though it may not be. And while the film seems to follow the Toy Story formula, there are added nuances that help to separate the comedy in Rio from others in the same vein. A flightless bird, paired with a bird that wants nothing more than to fly gives adult audiences the Odd Couple vibe, while kids enjoy the talking animals that fly into things. Everybody wins.
This third one is a biggie for me, because so much is squandered in the animation department. Computer animations lends itself to recreating beautiful scenery and backdrops. Locales such as Rio, especially during Carnival, look like a canvas that was splashed with every bright color known to man. The pairing of such locales with the ultra advanced animation techniques used for films like Rio gives moviegoers a wonderfully vibrant viewing experience. While not every film can have that bright cheery look, due to such restrictions as plot and setting (sheesh), when you get a film like Rio, Up, or Horton Hears a Who, you’re glad for the advancements animation has made in the past twenty years.
So far this year animation is king. Rango wowed me, while Gnomeo and Juliet tickled my Shakespearean funny bone. Now, Rio has swooped in with it’s amazing visuals and well delivered comedy, causing me to ponder what else the year has in store, animation wise. Well worth the price of admission, especially when you consider the fact that a plane ticket to Rio can cost somewhere in the range of one thousand dollars.