★★★ / ★★★★
When Blu was a baby bird, he fell off a tree and animal smugglers took him to America. When the deliveryman suddenly stepped on the break pedal in the snowy terrain of Minnesota, the cargo which contained the macaw fell out of the truck. He was found by a caring little girl named Linda. Several years later, Linda (voiced by Leslie Mann), who now owns a book store, is informed by a passionate ornithologist, Tulio (Rodrigo Santoro), that Blu (Jesse Eisenberg) is the last of his kind. In order to preserve the species, Linda has a choice of coming with Blu to Rio de Janeiro so her friend can mate with a macaw named Jewel (Anne Hathaway).
Directed by Carlos Saldanha, “Rio” is an energetic animated film where its colorful characters are thrown in one chase scene after another, from the busy streets to the dangerous jungles of Rio and back. Children and children-at-heart will most likely find it entertaining because something cute is always moving and making noises while the jokes are funny but rather harmless.
The movie excels in its chase sequences. Animal smugglers (Carlos Ponce, Jeffrey Garcia, Davi Vieira) want to make a lot of money by capturing Blu and Jewel and selling them. One of the criminals owns Nigel (Jermaine Clement), an ugly-looking bird who used to be quite a celebrity. When Blu and Jewel, chained together by the foot, try to escape from the three goons and the aggressive Nigel, it is like putting a camera on a roller coaster: we are right behind the duo as they slide, bounce, jump, and crawl over the favela rooftops, the poorer areas of the city.
While it is exciting to watch because something genuine is at stake, it challenges itself by trying to be more creative than its last joke. However, I wished the filmmakers had worked more on the characterization. Blu, a domesticated bird, feels depressed when he realizes that his being unable to fly makes him feel like he is missing out on being truly free. I wished it had explored that feelings of inadequacy a bit more instead of simply giving us only about three other scenes before it moved onto the next. Does domestication equal emasculation?
And then there is Nigel, the angry bird, the villain. Even though he is mean, I wanted to get to know him more. After one song, we learn that he is bitter because is replaced by a more beautiful bird. But what else? Why take orders from a human when humans are the ones who disposed of him so quickly? “Rio” is fun to watch but it could have been stronger if it the writing had been more direct in asking the more difficult questions. If not through dialogue, then perhaps through songs.