by Tim Ross
If you have a list of adventures you want to experience before you kick the bucket, a trip to Rio de Janeiro should be on it.
If it’s not already, it will be after you view the latest delightful offering from the folks who brought us the “Ice Age” films. And the good writing, innovative animation and colorful production design that were present in “Ice Age” get even better in “Rio.”
Blu, a small Blue Macaw (voiced by Jesse Eisenberg), is taken out of his tropical Argentinian paradise by dealers of exotic birds. Through an accident in transit, Blu ends up in a small, cold Minnesota town and becomes the lifelong companion to Linda.
Linda finds Blu when they are both young. She grows up to be a nebbish, shy bookstore owner and Blu grows up to be one of only two Blue Macaws left in the world.
The other, Jewel (Anne Hathaway), is female, of course. Linda finds this out when a nebbish, shy Argentinian scientist named Tulio, male, of course, shows up in her little village to ask her to bring Blu to Rio de Janeiro to mate with Jewel. So shy Linda and her bird companion head off to Brazil to look for love and adventure with shy Tulio and Jewel.
From that rosy beginning we learn of the sometimes rocky road to love. Blu is as insulated from the outside world as Linda and he’s definitely out of his element with Jewel. She was born free in the tropical jungle and yearns to return.
During an escape attempt, the birds are captured by poachers and chained together until resourceful Jewel escapes again, this time with Blu in tow. Why is Blu in tow? Because he never learned to fly. And just as love can send the heart soaring, so too can flight and the adventure gets even headier.
Now our lovebirds are runaway renegades with both bad and good guys on their tails. With the help of a few feathered friends along the way, namely Nico (Jaime Foxx), Pedro (will.i.am) and Rafael (George Lopez), the two Macaws find their way to love, freedom and flight.
In the hands of such a talented cast, every step of the way is a delight with one minor exception – Jesse Eisenberg is slightly jarring to me as the voice of Blu. His dialogue is reminiscent of the type of jokes Woody Allen can rattle off, but these come less smoothly from Eisenberg’s tongue. He’s a talented actor but not the perfect choice in this role, at least to my ear.
Otherwise, “Rio” is right on pitch and it’s clearly written for audiences of all ages. The film is in 3-D, so be prepared to pay more unless you can find it in 2-D. For my money, 3-D still doesn’t enhance the core aspects that I look for in a film – story and performance – and “Rio” doesn’t make any better use of 3-D than any other film I’ve seen. Perhaps I’m being stubborn about 3-D, but it just doesn’t make a vast difference in how much I enjoy a film compared to its 2-D counterpart.
Whichever format you see it in, get out and see it and then edit that bucket list. You’ll be glad you did.
Grade: 3.5/4 Stars