Blu, a baby macaw is captured in Rio and brought to Minnesota where he becomes friends with Linda, a human girl. When it’s discovered he is the last of his kind, he and Linda travel to Rio in order to meet his female counterpart.

You’d think that any family movie whose plot was based on propagating the species would have a subversive edge that both adults and children could enjoy. Unfortunately that is far from the case. This is clearly aimed at very young kids who would find a fish-out-of-water comedy a radical concept. Much of the humor is portraying Blu, a domesticated Macaw, trying to adapt to the wild untamed city of Rio. I suppose if I was 5, the point of view might have seemed innovative. As it is, this is sadly nothing new. Upon meeting Blu, Jewel, a sassy female macaw with an attitude, wants nothing to with him. You see she’s fiercely independent. Didn‘t see that coming. There’s also the toucan that gives romantic advice. Most irritating of all are a canary and a cardinal, the pair are just too hip for words. In fact the whole cast is populated by garden variety stock characters. Only Nigel, a conniving cockatoo who assists smugglers, is mildly interesting.

The best animated films will capture the spirit of the culture and people it portrays. The vistas in Pixar’s UP did wonders in conveying the atmosphere of South America. Here in Rio, the writers’ depth of understanding of Brazilian life is on a purely superficial level. Latin passions like Carnival and soccer are mentioned in an attempt to give it’s narrative some uniqueness. And a Brazilian ornithologist named Tulio in the movie is voiced by a genuine Brazilian actor, Rodrigo Santoro. But honestly, the Simpson’s trip to Brazil during its 13th TV season* felt more authentic than this watered down version of South American culture. Case in point: having New York actor Jesse Eisenberg voice the lead is acceptable within the story since he’s a Macaw raised in the U.S. state of Minnesota. But how to explain why native Brazilian female macaw Jewel is voiced by Anne Hathaway, an actress from New Jersey? At least speak with an accent. I heard more foreign language spoken in Beverly Hills Chihuahua.

I admit ripping apart a cartoon for not being credible may feel a bit unreasonable. After all, it’s obvious intended audience is young children. It’s visually bright and colorful; and that helps a lot in making this adventure watchable for adults. However, we’re living in a golden age where pretty colors and shiny surfaces are no longer enough to justify a computer-animated film’s existence. Story and substance are important too. Pixar taught us that. Given the absolutely rote script and sitcom personalities, this is a rather uninspired journey into the mediocre and forgettable. There’s no reason why everything should be so flavorless and bland.

* The episode was called “Blame It on Lisa” and aired on the Fox network in the U.S. on March 31, 2002.

4 Responses to “Rio”

  1. Rochelle Says:

    I completely agree with you review. While it was very pretty, it was also quite forgettable. With of course the exception of Nigel, played by the ever hilarious Jemaine Clement from Flight if the Conchords. Honestly I could have watched an entire film of just his character. Also, the fact that only one character in the entire movie was from Brazil was a bone of contention for me too. Mexico is not Brazil, but even that accent would have been preferable to the primarily anglo-American soundig cast. I didn’t hate Rio, that’s far too strong, but I was disappointed. There is such a high standard in the animated film world, I think we should be able to expect a bit more.


  2. Did not want to see this. Glad I didn’t.


  3. Good review. Didn’t wanna see this in the first place. Wanna see it even less now.


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