‘Rio’: High-flying animated comedy is a refreshing change

Rio (2011)

Directed by Carlos Saldanha

7/10  G

The spirit of Rio de Janeiro is alive in Rio, the latest motion picture from the makers of Ice Age. Showcasing the impressive voice talents of Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway, and George Lopez, Rio is a colorful explosion of vision and creativity from writer and director Carlos Saldanha.

Blu (Eisenberg), the world’s last blue macaw, was living a comfortable domestic life with his owner Linda (Leslie Mann) in Minnesota when Tulio (Rodrigo Santoro), a scientist who specializes in birds, stormed into their lives demanding he reproduce. The world’s last female blue macaw, he explained, was just recently found, and the two were needed to repopulate the species…but not in Minnesota. In Rio, Jewel (Hathaway), the free-spirited mate, has no such plans of reproduction. On their first night together, everything goes wrong when an inside job leads to the bird-napping of the pair. When they escape the clutches, the world of Rio is theirs until they are found by either the bird-nappers or Linda.

Blu and Jewel are joined by Rafael, Nico, and Pedro, voiced by the fabulous talents of George Lopez, Jamie Foxx, and Will.i.am, respectively. Also, Tracy Morgan will make you smile while he voices the adorable bulldog Luiz. Together, they explore the vibrant beauty of Rio de Janeiro. Rio-born Saldanha made certain his hometown was represented well, with lively hues and gorgeous “bird’s-eye” views. Original songs by Taio Cruz and Will.i.am embody the samba spirit of the city. If ever a movie’s songs made you want to “shake your tail feather”, Rio will be the one. Especially at the beginning and end of the film, special effort will have to be made to stop from leaping out of your seat to join in the dancing fun. Foxx and Will.i.am are true double threats as voice actors and singers, and the casting of the two stars made for a wise decision.

While Carnival, Rio’s annual parade and the world’s most elaborate party, shows the wonder of the city, Rio does not hesitate to also show another side of the beautiful metropolis. Thieving monkeys, cramped slums, and families struggling to make ends meet also show themselves in this tale of corruption and survival. Saldanha does a fantastic job of displaying to the world his magical hometown. Watch for the bird/monkey battle, it will leave you and your child bending over in hilarious amusement. While keeping to the tight restrictions of a G rating, Rio is fun for the entire family. Its stunning array of colors and sounds is enjoyable no matter how old you are, and the special brand of humor will delight even the oldest in the audience. The cast enchants with talented collection of voices. Everyone will “flock” to see this animated masterpiece. It’s alright, I’m done with the “bird-play”—I mean word-play—now.

Rio is now on Blu-Ray and DVD.

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