Rio 2 review

Carlos Saldanha
Jesse Eisenberg
Jamie Foxx
Jemaine Clement
Andy Garcia
Anne Hathaway
Rated: G

Does an animated movie about birds need this many sub plots?

“Rio 2” carries on the story of Blu, voiced by Jesse Eisenberg. Blu, who formally lived in Minnesota during the first movie, now lives with his wife Jewel (Hathaway) and their children in a forest sanctuary near Rio, being kept safe as they are the only birds of their kind.

That is until more of their species is discovered by an expedition conducted by the film’s lead human protagonists. Blu’s family and friends eagerly travel to the Amazon where the rest of the species lives and he reluctantly tags along. When they arrive they find out that their species is led by Jewel’s long lost father Eduardo (Garcia).

From that point forward, Blu has to deal with Eduardo who seems disapproving, a show off bird named Roberto (Bruno Mars) who is wooing Jewel, a rival gang of birds, a land developer who wants to cut down the rain forest and the villain from the first movie, Nigel (Jemaine Clement), who is seeking revenge. Oh, and there’s also sub plots about Nigel’s assistant Gabi (Kristin Chenoweth) and another about a talent competition.

The biggest flaw in the whole movie is that there is way too much going on. All of these various sub plots going on make the film unfocused. One minute we’re with one villain, then the next scene we’re with a different one. One scene is about a talent competition and another is about Blu screwing up the peace between the rival birds.

It was as if the filmmakers just wanted a sequel, came up with some ideas, and then just threw them all together without really caring to make a nice flowing story that worked on all levels. With “Rio 2,” all audiences get is a jumbled mess that was going in a bunch of different directions.

The fact that most of the sub plots get limited focus because of so much going on results in everything being underdeveloped. This makes it hard to care about what’s going on throughout the movie. In the end, it leads to a climax that is dull and unimpressive.

On top of that the environmental message of the movie was done without a hint of subtlety, making it way too obvious which lessened the impact.

The story in “Rio 2” wasn’t the only thing underdeveloped, though. The characters were as well. Blu seemed to regress as a character, seeming to be the same cowardly type he was in the first one. They could have kept some of the character’s charm and still developed the character but they really chose not to.

The new characters in the film serve nothing more than to make life difficult to Blu. Both Eduardo and Roberto don’t have any real depth at all. I get that they’re riffing on the whole “Meet the Parents” idea, but it just isn’t executed well.

Returning comic relief characters like Nico (Jamie Foxx) and Rafael (George Lopez) seemed to have reduced roles in this film, and were really only used for the talent competition sub plot.

As for Blu’s family, they are made into basically side characters. Blu’s kids are basically forgotten about by the time the movie is halfway through. Even Jewel doesn’t seem to have that much impact on the story.

The character with the worst execution, though, is Nigel, the villain from the first film. One reason is that he’s basically made into a slapstick villain for the entire movie. Secondly, he has to share his screen time with a stock land development, “I cut down trees for fun” type of villain.

In the first “Rio,” the best parts of the movie was the animation it featured, mainly because Blue Sky Studios was able to show so many vibrant colors on screen. This is the same with “Rio 2,” but it doesn’t really do anything fantastic with the animation it has at its disposal.

The music had both pros and cons. The positive aspect is when the film features music that reflects the culture of Rio. The negative is when it doesn’t, and it’s a big negative. The problem is when the movie starts having the animals rap. The moments with the animals rapping feels less like the movie is trying to produce good, memorable music and more as if they are just pandering to what will make things seem more hip.

“Rio 2” is a very flawed film without much to salvage it. The movie desperately needed to be simplified and have the number of stories reduced. The whole thing made the characters feel underdeveloped and in the end there was nothing really to care about.

The movie has just enough jokes here and there, a couple nice music bits and good enough animation for a low 2 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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