Film Review | Rio 2
Few would have predicted that Blue Sky Studios’ Rio would go on to be one of the highest grossing films of 2011. Directed by Carlos Saldanha, it was well-liked by both critics and audiences, flapping its way to $483 million worldwide. As such, it’s no surprise we’re getting a second instalment of the franchise, but the assurance that this is a product which a demographic is guaranteed to respond to may have contributed to the overly safe vibe the sequel emanates.
Set a few years after the first film, Rio 2 reintroduces us to nerdy macaw Blu (Jesse Eisenberg) and his mate Jewel (Anne Hathaway), who live in domestic luxury with their three children. When their former owners Linda (Leslie Mann) and Tulio (Rodrigo Santoro) unearth the existence of other blue macaws in the Amazon rainforest, Jewel is eager to reconnect with her roots. With a little persuading the family are soon jungle bound, accompanied once more by Rafael (George Lopez), Nico (Jamie Foxx), and Pedro (Will.i.am), with vengeful cockatoo Nigel (Jermaine Clement) in hot pursuit. The realisation that the lost tribe of macaws is actually Jewel’s family – including authoritarian patriarch Eduardo (Andy Garcia) – complicates matters further.
Aesthetically speaking, much of what entertained audiences in the first instalment makes a welcome return in the sequel. The film begins in Rio before transporting us to the Amazon, and in both locations the scenery is vibrant and colourful, making good use of 3D. Additionally, Rio 2 features a number of lively, toe-tapping musical numbers, an unsurprising feat with the returning John Powell and Sergio Mendes in addition to Bruno Mars and Janelle Monáe.
Also working in Rio 2’s favour is the star-studded voice cast. Eisenberg and Hathaway’s dulcet tones are pitch perfect, and Garcia plays the disapproving Father role to a hilt, but the standout once again is Clement’s villainous Nigel, whose impromptu rendition of Gloria Gaynor’s ‘I Will Survive’ – complete with an added rap – is far and away the film’s best moment. As poisonous tree frog Gabi, Kristen Chenoweth also manages to make an impression, finding humour in the ridiculousness of her character’s arc (she longs to have sex with Nigel but her toxicity makes it impossible).
For all the sporadic fun Rio 2 offers, the scattershot screenplay means that what substance there is doesn’t resonate as well as it could. An ecological through-line which sees loggers threatening the macaws’ home is relegated to a loosely explored sub-plot, whilst the “happy wife, happy life” mantra quickly gets tiresome. Simply put, one can’t escape the feeling of having seen all this before – particularly in the Meet the Parents meets Rio segments – and there are few surprises in the 101 minute run time.
Likeable but forgettable, Rio 2 won’t have you clamouring for another jungle excursion any time soon but it serves up just enough light-hearted delights for family audiences to enjoy.
This review was originally published at This is Fake DIY.
Watch my interview with director Carlos Saldanha below.