I’m fed up with animated sequels that don’t put any effort into improving upon the first film, or at least the characters that you’re supposed to root for. Regardless of the fact that everything has a sequel now, the animated sequels have gotten so sloppy and lazy that they only serve to make money (which they unfortunately do). They get bad reviews for a reason and then they decide to keep going with more films! It’s a facet of Hollywood and the Film Industry that I despise and films like this one just add to my (and I’m assuming other’s) frustration.
Rio de Janeiro is a bustling city that’s full of life and music. It’s also home to Blu (Jesse Eisenberg) and Jewel (Anne Hathaway), two of the last Blue Macaws on the planet. They live in Rio with Blu’s caretakers, Tulio (Rodrigo Santoro) and Linda (Leslie Mann), as well as their three children. Their musical pals Pedro (will.i.am) and Nico (Jaime Foxx) are always by their side, as well as Rafael (George Lopez) the Toucan and Luiz (Tracy Morgan) the bulldog. All is well in paradise, until it’s discovered that there may be more Blue Macaws in the Amazon rainforest. With that knowledge at hand, Jewel decides that the family should go see for themselves and pulls Blu out of his human-life comfort zone. The rest of the gang tags along too, in order to recruit talent for a talent show.
Once in the Amazon rainforest, Blu and the gang stumble upon a lost paradise that’s full of waterfalls, scenic views, and the rest of the Blue Macaw population! Little did they know, Jewel’s father Eduardo (Andy Garcia) is the leader of the clan and is ecstatic that his daughter is returned to him. Eduardo doesn’t approve of Blu’s use of anything human and would much prefer that Jewel get together with Roberto (Bruno Mars), the greatest singer and worrier in the clan. It’s up to Blu to learn the way of the Macaws, but that’s difficult when he is still emotionally attached to his protectors. Subsequently, the villainous Nigel (Jermaine Clement) is on a mission to kill blue, with the help of an anteater and poisonous tree frog named Gabi (Kristin Chenoweth). Oh, and there’s also a group of humans destroying the rainforest and they’re endangering the Blue Macaws well-being.
Rio 2 is about as memorable as the first film. That being said, I didn’t see the first film until after I saw the latest one. However, I never felt like I was at a disadvantage when it came to the story. Plus, I played the Angry Birds game and I felt like that was good enough. Still, I went back and watched the first and forgot it almost immediately. Why they made a sequel is beyond me (money), but they made it none the less and now I have to bash on it. Just because I’m older, doesn’t mean that I don’t know how to have fun at a kid’s movie. I’d just prefer it if the film was actually good.
The voicework in this film is pretty solid, even if some of the characters are totally obnoxious. The animation is also really great and the prospect of the Amazon rainforest yields a lot of potential. There are many great looking shots and every action is pretty fluid. Leslie Mann is the only good female character in the film and her dedication to the birds is a refreshing sight to see. The story is weak, but the musical numbers do help the film a great deal. A talent show auction scene is the funniest in the film and Bruno Mars steals the show with his minute long serenading of Anne Hathaway. His voice is unparalleled and his level of overall talent is astounding. He’s just got a knack for performing and he excels above all the rest in the film. I only wish that his song was longer and that he had more to sing, as his scene was the most memorable and enjoyable of the whole film. Other than that, Jaime Foxx, will.i.am, and Kristin Chenoweth also had some pretty decent songs. As I mentioned before, the music saves this film.
The biggest problem that this film has, is that its lead characters are so unlikable. Eisenberg stammers throughout the whole film and just plays himself in other films, but this time as a bird. He never does anything new or exciting and his over-reliance on human technology really gets boring. Hathaway, whom I adore, is annoying and nags the entire film. I get wanting to be with your family and all, but she’s constantly making Eisenberg feel bad and she’s always trying to guilt him. She wants to change him and when he’d reluctant to change, she’s yells at him. Both are poorly written and they’re unbearably awful. Tulio is just a clumsy, worthless character and he never improves. He always puts his wife in danger and she ends up having to save him all the time. Every time he’s on screen, he’s screws something up and ignores hos wife and her warnings. I honestly wondered why she was still with him.
The story also relies heavily on Nigel and his companions, as they try to track down Blu and kill him with Gabi’s potion. That’s a bit dark for a kids movie, but maybe that’s just me. Jermaine Clement does brilliant voicework as a Shakespearean wanna-be, but his characters vendetta is somewhat pointless. He can’t fly anymore, so he rides on an anteater into the Amazon. He’s hell-bent on killing Blu and his companions just go along with it. Gabi’s quick and unrequited love for Nigel gets tiresome and then the anteater just does nothing. Well, he eats ants, as one must. There’s also another rivalry between two bird species over territory and also between the birds and the humans coming to chop down trees. We see tons of trees collapse and birds almost die, so it’s clear that there’s an environmentalist message being waved in your face. We get it… Really, we understand that this is bad, so you can’t stop reinforcing it so heavily.
The majority of the film revolves around the discovery of the other Blue Macaws and that could have been something substantial for our weary protagonists. Of course, Hathaway meets her old family and her father, Garcia, disapproves of Eisenberg and wants his daughter to be with Mars (that’s a no-brainer). Rather than exploring this new place and crossing cultures, all the other birds make fun of Blu for his use of human technology and he’s completely ostracized. Even his wife goes against him and it all seems forced and unrealistic. I get that it’s for the sake of comedy, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be funny or worthwhile. Then you have Eisenberg trying to prove himself and failing, while his kids and wife settle in quickly without him. Of course this tries to get the audience to sympathize for Blu, but I wasn’t having any of it.
I feel justified in my disapproval of this film, because there’s barely anything to get invested in. All the best characters are limited in their roles and all the worst characters are front and center. The story is handled poorly and thus, it doesn’t sit well with anyone. There were very few laughs from the kids in the theater that I was in and I think says all that you need to know. I’m sure that kids will still enjoy it in the moment, but it’s nothing special and it’s certainly something that they’re not going to remember in a few days. If you choose to skip this film, just know that you’re making the right choice.
Rio 2 Trailer