– for not containing material to warrant a higher rating.
Director: Carlos Saldanha
Starring: voices of Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway, Leslie Mann, George Lopez
Running Time: 1 hour, 36 minutes
Theatrical Release Date: Aprl 15, 2011
Blu-Ray Release Date: August 2, 2011 (Amazon.com)
From the makers of the hit Ice Age series comes Rio, a comedy adventure about taking a walk on the wild side. Blu is a domesticated Macaw who never learned to fly, living a comfortable life with his owner and best friend Linda in the small town of Moose Lake, Minnesota. Blu and Linda think he’s the last of his kind, but when they learn about another Macaw who lives in Rio de Janeiro, they head to the faraway and exotic land to find Jewel, Blu’s female counterpart. Not long after they arrive, Blu and Jewel are kidnapped by a group of bungling animal smugglers. With the help of street smart Jewel, and a group of wise-cracking and smooth-talking city birds, Blu escapes. Now, with his new friends by his side, Blu will have to find the courage to learn to fly, thwart the kidnappers who are hot on their trail, and return to Linda, the best friend a bird ever had.
The Ice Age films put Blue Sky Studios on the map when it debuted in 2002. Now, three Ice Age movies later (with a fourth on the way), Blue Sky has produced another studio effort, a bird themed story titled Rio. My first impression, considering the movie’s title, was that it was named for the story’s title character, but Rio is actually named for the main locale of the story, Rio de Janeiro. Blu, a Macaw that accidentally was dumped in Minnesota and grew up for 15 years as a pet and friend to his owner, Linda, is forced to go to Rio when a bird enthusiast shows up in Linda’s shop one day bent on saving this blue Macaw’s species. As you can imagine, it gets a little crazy when this fish-out-of-water story finds Blu getting separated from Linda and trying to find his way back to her… all while discovering what it means to really live as wild birds do.
First off, the animation of Rio is the best to come out of Blue Sky yet. Some of the animation for the characters’ lips moving and such may be a little dicey at times, but overall, the colors are vibrant, the detail is sharp, and the characters are expressive. One minor complaint, however, is I found that some of the character design for the inhabitants of Rio were ridiculously similar. I actually had watched the film twice and I still found it difficult to tell a few of the stocky, chubby guys apart. I noticed that the model for that character was reused several times, even in the background at the beach, and it actually made the film seem a little lazy for doing that. Also, the fish-out-of-water story, while a faithful go-to plot for some excellent stories, almost feels tired in Rio. But some fun scenes and characters help mask what is otherwise a way overdone concept (and kids shouldn’t care).
Jesse Eisenberg voices the central blue bird, Blu. Eisenberg does a great job giving Blu a charming personality that is a good blend of naivety and nervousness, all the while being more than happy with how his life with Linda has been up until this point. If you wouldn’t know it was Eisenberg voicing Blu, you might think it was Michael Cera (Juno, Scott Pilgrim). Anne Hathaway is excellent and spunky as the little spitfire, Jewel, and proves to be a nice match for Blu. And Leslie Mann, who is probably most notable for appearing in her husband Judd Apatow’s films, provides just the right sweetness as Blu’s caretaker, Linda. Meanwhile, Jamie Foxx and Will.i.am are okay as the urban-talking Nico and Pedro (if not leaning more on the side of obnoxious), and George Lopez is solid as the toucan Rafael. 30 Rock‘s Tracy Morgan provides some great laughs as a bulldog named Luiz; he’s used sparingly in the film, which is probably good, but he also gets some of the best lines. Finally, the villainous Nigel is wonderfully voiced by Flight of the Concords‘ Jemaine Clement, who even provides a bizarre almost-rap song that offers one of the funniest moments in the film. All in all, the voice cast is pretty strong and I feel like it all could have been a little better with a stronger script.
The content is mild, which should be expected given its G rating. However, as with most films like this, most scenes involving the villain Nigel can be a little on the dark side, even though they still try to inject some humor into those moments. Also, the theme of Blu needing to mate with Jewel to save their species might not be a major issue for every parent, but some might not want to have to deal with the “birds and the bees” questions from their children. Some scenes are pretty direct about the topic (especially when Tulio is trying to get Blu and Jewel “in the mood” and turns on Lionel Ritchie’s “Naturally.” Tulio and Linda are watching the birds fighting on a monitor, but it looks like they may be coming on to each other, so Tulio suggests they give the birds some privacy), although it’s never handled in a vulgar way. In the end, the story actually has a really strong pro-family theme and parents should be pleased about that.
Rio is a decent entry into the world of animated entertainment, but it isn’t a great one. Something about it seems a bit too familiar and maybe even sophomoric, but the film is not without its merit. Blue Sky keeps dishing out fair animated entertainment, but they do still have a ways to go before they reach the caliber of Pixar or DreamWorks. Unfortunately, Rio isn’t quite enough to edge them much closer to that goal.
– John DiBiase, (reviewed: 8/10/11)
Blu-Ray Special Features Review
Rio comes in a nice Blu-Ray / DVD / Digital Copy combo pack and is the ideal choice for your home viewing purposes (although it is releasing in a 3D Blu-Ray combo pack soon, too, so if that’s your bag, you may want to hold out for that one). The vibrant colors and crisp animation look gorgeous in Blu-Ray, so it’s certainly the way to go when it comes to what format to watch it in.
Deleted Scene: Fruit Stand – The single deleted scene consists of story board animation but with the real actors’ voices. In it, Jewel and Rafael force Blu into trying some fruits he’d never had before. It turns out that he loves them and goes on a bit of a feeding frenzy.
Explore the World of Rio – This is an interactive map of Rio. It’s broken down into four parts: jungle, city, stadium and beach. In each one, we’re given a still photo of the selected area with small bullet points/icons spread out across the screen. For example, some are real facts about the city, with Tulio narrating, some are real videos of Carnival, as well as real photos of the party. Finally, each section features one spot where the director talks about the respective areas. These are probably the best features of this particular extra.
Saving the Species: One Voice at a Time (24:49) – When I watch an animated movie, I love to learn about who provided the voice for what character and when it comes time to watching these home entertainment releases, I love to hear the actual voice actors talk about their roles. “Saving The Species” may actually be the very best behind-the-scenes featurette on an animated movie I’ve seen to date. While it wraps up voice actors and production info into one thorough featurette, there is 25 minutes here of quality behind-the-scenes material. “Saving The Species” tackles every major character in the film and their voice actors, providing satisfying interviews with each of them, as well as footage of them recording their voices in the studio. We then hear from the animating and production crew and see step-by-step how the animation was created for the film, including how they recorded themselves as reference for acting out some of the scenes. It’s a fascinating and fun piece to watch and easily the best part of the extras.
The making of Hot Wings (8:02) – This featurette focuses on Will.i.am of Black Eyed Peas, who voices a character in the movie too alongside Jamie Foxx, and how the two of them collaborated on some songs.
Boom-Boom Tish Tish: The Sounds of Rio (13:30) – This one goes even deeper into the music of the film, focusing on all of the Brazilian artists who were involved, including the legendary Sergio Mendes who served as Executive Music Producer on the film, and how everyone worked along with composer John Powell to unify it all. It then goes into the dancing of the film and how the crew learned Samba for animation purposes, and even shows us the film’s very first dance test animation footage. The featurette comes to a close as they reveal that a professional choreographer was brought in to help plan out many the dance moves we see in the finished film.
Carnival Dance-o-Rama – This is another interactive segment where the viewer can choose different characters from the movie and learn the dance moves they do in a step by step, follow-along process.
Welcome to Rio Music Video (1:37) – This takes the song from the end of the movie and sets it to clips from throughout the film.
Taio Cruz: Telling the World Music Video (1:54) – This music video takes the catchy pop love song from the film and shows the singer, Taio Cruz, in the studio with characters from the film animated around him. They also play clips from the film – sometimes with the voice audio – along with the song.
Rio de Jam-eiro Jukebox (8:34) – This allows you to choose all of the songs from the movie and either watch them separately or one after another via a “Play All” option.
Postcards from Rio – This is another interactive portion that allows you to watch some scenes from the movie and then snap your own custom still frame from the movie and make your own postcards out of it. Apparently it’s just for fun, though, since you can’t really actually send them to anyone… even if just via email.
The Real Rio (9:31) – Tucked away at the end, oddly enough, is a featurette finally dedicated to the REAL Rio de Janiero. Director Carlos Saldanha was born and raised in Rio, so it really shows how much this movie was a labor of love. The actors share about how beautiful Rio looks in the movie, but have never actually seen it, while Carlos talks about having flown some of his production crew out to the real location to inspire them. We then see Carlos dressing up for Carnival and taking part in the parade for the first time in his life!
Including the Theatrical Trailer rounds out the goodies on the Rio Blu-Ray and, I have to say, this was one impressive set of extras. If you’re a fan of the film, I advise against missing this one!
– John DiBiase, (reviewed: 8/10/11)
Parental Guide: Content Summary
Sex/Nudity: We see a lot of women in bikinis around Rio; A man rips off his clothes to reveal a golden tank top and short gold shorts (apparently as just part of the festivities of Carnival, but it looks rather feminine); There is lots of talk about getting Blu and Jewel to mate to save their species. In one instance, Blu thinks he and Jewel are getting ready to do so, so he puckers up to kiss her. She realizes what he’s thinking and slaps him. They then fall to a grass patch and begin fighting. Linda and Tulio are watching on a monitor and Tulio thinks they’re getting ready to mate, so they leave the room to give them “privacy;” Tulio and Linda wear skimpy bird-themed costumes. Linda’s is a bikini-style costume that shows some cleavage
Alcohol/Drugs: There is wine on a dinner table.
Blood/Gore: A man who’s been clawed by Jewel has some slightly bloody scrapes and scratches all over his face
Violence: We see a guy with cuts all over his face, which apparently came from handling Jewel; Slyvio throws a pencil at a wall, killing a fly (we see the pair of dismembered fly wings float away from the pencil); A bird chloroforms a man. Later, the man holds up the chloroform-covered handkerchief and passes out again (a police officer also sniffs it and passes out); Jewel bites a man’s finger and flies away but is caught by Nigel who grabs her throat and holds her down; Blu scares a cat purposefully, which then scratches Blu’ss pursuers who get in the way of the cat; Nigel gets fried by electric wires; A baby toucan rips feathers out of Blu; Nigel throws a monkey into the air and lets him fall, threatening to let him die, but catches him at the last possible moment; The little monkeys and a large amound of birds have a big brawl; Nigel squeezes a little bird’s face so its eyeballs bulge between Nigel’s toes, and then throws him at a monkey; Luiz pushes Blu and Jewel, who are chained together, into a table saw to cut the chain. Blu slips and narrowly misses getting sliced himself, while the blade actually slices through and cuts off Luiz’ helmet; Nigel and Jewel fight and he drags him off; Nigel tackles and chokes Blu and hits Jewel who slams against the wall. A cage then falls onto her wing, damaging it; Blu clips a fire extinguisher to Nigel who gets pulled through a window and into a plane propeller. We see feathers fly and hear him scream. While we’re to assume he died, during the credits we see another scenes which shows Nigel is alive but extremely disheveled, with chunks of his feathers missing