Directed by Carlos Saldanha, Written by Carlos Saldanha and Don Rhymer, 96 minutes, Rated G.
By our guest blogger, Matthew Schimkowitz
Cliché plagues 20th Century Fox animation in their latest offering, "Rio," but the film manages to successfully transplant its well-worn topic to the tropical climates of South America. This familiarity doesn't make the film an outright waste, like the recent Easter adventure "Hop." Quite the contrary. "Rio"'s audience can feel right at home in the plotting and enjoy the dazzling animation and pretty darn funny script in the mean time.
Our lead bird, Blu (Jesse Eisenberg), faces a problem many Disney princesses and talking animals are quite familiar with: After a lifetime in captivity, Blu finds himself in the wild without a clue how to navigate it. But Blu didn't mean to end up in this position. Blu, along with his protective owner (Leslie Mann), is invited to Rio so that he, the last male macaw, can mate with the last known female one. What other choice does he have?
Unfortunately, Blu and the female Macaw, Jewel (Anne Hathaway), are kidnapped and, thus, set forth on an adventure to find both freedom and Blu's owner.
The familiar themes that "Rio" settles on are numerous. Blu's conflicts are well-worn territory in animated films, while his will-they-won't-they relationship with Jewel follows the beats of a romantic comedy. Neither point ever develops beyond a base level, though. It’s like “Finding Nemo” without that strong emotional center and uses its script as a way to show off the animation and cast. Blu finds his bearings, gets the girl, and reconnects with his owner. Obviously, this shouldn't come as too much of spoiler, because the film earns its breezy feel through the knowledge that everything is going to be ok.
However, "Rio" does flourish in its animation and humor. The brilliant colors and swooping shots create an immersive and enjoyable visual style. Don Rhymer's script never complicates things too greatly, creating a series of funny situations for the talented voice cast to tackle. His film is decidedly simple in this regard, thus allowing the animators to really go to town. It’s enough to keep parents and kids quietly occupied, but will probably leave them slightly underwhelmed.
"Rio" never reaches the loftier heights some may expect from today's animation studios, but it makes good use of its resources. From the stunning animation to the talented and game cast on hand, the film makes something familiar look new, even if it's not at heart.