out of Five
Running time: 96
Lively, enjoyable and frequently funny adventure that soars thanks to a witty script, delightful animation, a couple of great songs and the inspired casting of Jesse Eisenberg and Flight of the Conchords' Jemaine Clement.
What's it all about?
Directed by Carlos Saldanha (the Ice Age movies), Rio begins as blue macaw Blu (voiced by Jesse Eisenberg) is snatched out of the trees as a hatchling and taken to America where he winds up being raised from childhood by bespectacled bookshop-owning singleton Linda (Leslie Mann). When bird-rescuer Tulio (Rodrigo Santoro) pleads with her to take Blu to Rio so that he can mate with the last remaining female of his species (Anne Hathaway as Jewel), Linda reluctantly agrees, but no sooner are the two placed in the same cage than they're stolen by bird-smugglers, assisted by vicious cockatoo Nigel (Jemaine Clement).
In order to escape, Blu and Jewel enlist the help of a menagerie of colourful locals, including family Toucan Rafael (George Lopez) and street-talking duo Pedro (Will.I.Am) and Nico (Jamie Foxx). However, both the courtship and the escape are hampered by the fact that Blu can't fly, not to mention the fact that he and Jewel are leg-cuffed together ...
The casting directors for Rio deserve some sort of award, because Jesse Eisenberg proves an inspired choice, drawing on his own comic persona and giving Blu a neurotic edge that works brilliantly. Similarly, Jemaine Clement is terrific fun as nasty bird Nigel, (“I'm not interested in your nicked knick-knacks. Your burgled baubles bore me”) and contributes a wonderful, specially written Flight of the Conchords-esque song (“Nasty Bird”) that's worth the price of admission alone.
The animation is lively and colourful throughout, with the animators making good use of the various Rio locations, even if Rio itself is oddly under-populated (and, um, predominantly white in make-up, but let's not go there). Similarly, the 3D effects are used well, especially during the flying scenes, though the film would work just as well in 2D and would benefit from the heightened colour.
The witty script is excellent, with colourful characters (the evil monkeys are a lot of fun) and great gags for both adults and children. It also builds to an exciting and emotionally engaging finale without overdoing the sugary sentimentality.
With a terrific voice cast and a frequently funny script, Rio is a hugely enjoyable, well written and superbly animated adventure that should appeal to both adults and children alike. Highly recommended.