Alan Smithee

Rio – Review

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I have a problem. I love animated movies so much that sometimes I forget that not all of them live up to the standards I’ve set in my own mind over the years. I’m willing to give a little leeway with 2D hand-animated films, but if you’re a 3D cartoon, you had better come out with all guns blazing.

Sadly, Rio didn’t.

Let me say that by no stretch of the imagination is Rio a bad movie…because it isn’t. It just suffers from one major problem, its plot and writing. It’s just too damned forgettable. Even as I write this, I’m having problems remembering some of the finer points of the movie where I found myself laughing. This does not bode well for you when I’m the type of guy who can remember exactly what Clarence Boddicker said to Murphy as he put a bullet through his skull.

The movie, made by Blue Sky Studios (the same studio who brought us the Ice Age franchise) is so woefully predictable in just about every department. Let’s go off of what the trailers have given us. There’s a bird that can’t fly that is sent to Rio de Janeiro to hook up with a female of his species to help save them from extinction. Someone sees that he’s a rare blue macaw and hijinx ensue.

One guess to what he’s finally able to do near the end of the film.

While I’m glad that the creators of this film have decided to give some love to Brazil, I’m also underwhelmed by the apparent lack of Brazillian voice-actors filling in the main roles of the film. I get it, you picked Jesse Eisenberg as Blu because he’s essentially the geekiest voice you can find…but did you really have to pick Will.i.am, Jamie Foxx, Anne Hathaway, George Lopez, and Tracy Morgan as native Brazillians? I just wasn’t sold on the voices I was hearing, in other words, I didn’t buy it for a moment.

Now I know you guys might pick me apart for attacking the movie for that. But in my mind, there’s no need to use star-power in the roles of the characters in animated movies. You want to meet a character for the first time and have their voice NOT remind you of a famous person.

Personally, I don’t want to identify the voice of a movie star as a little animated bird. I want you to convince me that this bird is actually from Rio de Janeiro, doesn’t have a perfectly smooth American accent (or in Lopez’s case, a slight Mexican accent), and doesn’t use readily droppable hip-hop references in all day conversation. I don’t want to be reminded that this guy is actually from the Black Eyed Peas or that he essentially plays the same character no matter who he voices…I’m looking at you Mr. Morgan.

The movie is very pretty to watch, but completely unnecessary to see in 3D. The guys from Blue Sky definitely know how to make great looking CG films, and the scenes during carnival were gorgeously and meticulously shot. This brief part of the film captured my daughter’s full attention (as well as mine for the costume that Linda was wearing) but as soon as we past that, she was back to running up and down the aisle at the near vacant theater we were in.

The writing, was completely by the book for this one. We didn’t get any twists thrown our way, we knew who the villains were all the time, we knew what Blu would end up doing at the end, and we knew what would happen to Nigel…more about him in a minute. It was just another supreme example of how people feel you have to dumb the movie down for kids…when in fact, kids are fully capable of grasping complex films as long as you thrown in someone they can identify with. Sadly there were no characters that the kids this film is supposedly made for that they could experience the movie through.

Nigel, voiced by Jemaine Clement of The Flight of the Conchords, was by far the best character in the film and had the best song. He plays a villanous cockatoo who helps capture birds for the exotic bird smugglers…and apparently likes chicken.

All in all, Rio is a fine example of how pretty visuals and great music can’t salvage what I feel is a flop of a storyline.

The only thing I took with me from this movie was the sudden urge to visit Rio afterwards…and maybe that’s what they’re trying to sell in the long-run, but ultimately this is one movie that you can afford to wait and see when it comes to the small screen of home consumption.

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