Film Review: Rio

Rio offers animated fun with its bird out of cage tale, as it were. Good animation and fun songs ensure that the film ticks along nicely, although Rio is pleasant rather than exhilarating.

Domesticated macaw Blu lives in Minnesota with his adoring owner Linda. When bird expert Tulio spots him, he offers Linda and Blu a chance to go to Rio so that Blu can mate with Jewel, the only other bird of their endangered species. Linda and Blu go to Brazil, but things don’t go exactly according to plan…

Rio treads a familiar path with its outsider who finds his way narrative. Children should enjoy the story, but older viewers may get a little restless with the predictability of proceedings. Carlos Saldanha’s film shows little innovation in terms of story, however the characters and set pieces sufficiently maintain attention.

Screenwriter Don Rhymer wisely eschews the more realistic aspects of the macaw’s need to reproduce. Instead, Rio becomes a love story between Blu and Jewel. Rather than dwell on the idea of producing offspring, the film instead concentrates on the blossoming and sometimes tumultuous relationship between the two endangered birds. This has the same desired effect, without the need to give too much detail in a children’s film.

The characters featured in the film are quite typical of this style of animation. There are the two protagonists and an array of amusing sidekicks. Nevertheless, what Rio does quite well is replicate the traits of each bird in their human counterpart. Like Blu, Linda lacks confidence and is very comfortable in her regular existence. Both human and bird have inevitable breakthrough moments, which turn out to be amusing and heartwarming, respectively.

Unsurprisingly given the title, most of the action takes place in Rio. Some of the depictions of the city are rather questionable, however. The slum areas appear remarkably empty for a location that is so densely populated. Moreover, the scene where street kid Fernando longingly looks into the home of a family is acutely reminiscent of the very similar elementary inference used in Santa Claus: The Movie.

Rio features an all-star cast, but has not relied on these names in the film’s advertising. Jesse Eisenberg is perfectly cast as Blu, bringing shades of Woody Allen-style neuroticism to the character. Anne Hathaway is feisty as love interest Jewel, while Jamie Foxx shows off his vocal talents as Nico. Jermaine Clement is fantastic as Nigel, particularly in the musical number.

Rio is a fun watch, featuring all the colour and energy you would expect for a film set in the vibrant city. While it ticks the boxes for an animated feature, Rio never reaches beyond these modest aims.