Dir: Carlos Saldanha. US. 2014. 101mins
As a delightfully bright and breezy bit of 3D animated entertainment Rio 2 hits the sweet spot, and will no doubt be a box office hit with its blend of good-natured jungle adventure, songs and gags. The only frustrating thing is that it feels very much like a by-the-numbers sequel, lacking the verve, ebullience and left-field humour that made 2011’s Rio such a surprise hit.
There are plenty of musical intermissions – Anne Hathaway gets to sing again after her Oscar-winning stint in Les Miserables, plus veteran performer Rita Moreno (playing Jewel’s aunt) adds some class to the musical proceedings – as the story tackles human plans to cut down the forest where the birds have made their home.
That isn’t to say it isn’t enjoyable and entertaining, because it is. Simply that the original – which managed that rare trick of bringing vibrant colour to the 3D experience – was such a fun-packed delight that the sequel finds it hard to replicate the magic as it ticks off familiar plot devices and heads off to an Avatar-style save-the-forest climax.
The original film took some $486 million worldwide (the majority coming from international) and while Rio 2 should come close to that figure – especially given its headline-friendly voice cast and savvy marketing campaign - much will depend on how other family films fare over the busy Easter period.
What made the original such fun was the wonderful way it painted Rio de Janeiro. The sequel smartly opens back in the city, this time on New Year’s Eve, dwelling on the humankind partying on Copacabana beach and the animals (mainly the birds) having their own bash on the iconic Christ the Redeemer statute which overlooks Rio. It is an appealing and entertaining start that reintroduces the main characters.
Rare blue Spix macaws Blu (voiced charmingly by Jesse Eisenberg), Jewel (Anne Hathaway, excellent as ever) and their three children (Rachel Crow, Pierce Gagnon and Amandla Stenberg) are happy in their carefree Rio lifestyle, though house-bird Blu still annoys Jewel with his human-ways, favouring making pancakes for breakfast for the kids rather than feeding them Brazil nuts and generally preferring city life to the great outdoors.
When Blu’s former owner, Linda (Leslie Mann), and her husband, Tulio (Rodrigo Santoro), discover evidence that the blue macaws may be not be quite so endangered a species as suspected Jewel manages to convince Blu that the family should head off on a 2,000-mile journey into the Amazon rainforest where the macaws were spotted. Sporting a satnav, Blu (who wears a ‘fanny pack’ containing a Swiss army knife among other items) reluctantly leads the family into the wild – and possible dangers from the likes of boa constrictors, tarantulas and piranhas – while also heading long on the journey are their pals, toucan Rafael (George Lopez) and the rap duo of cardinal Pedro (will.i.am) and canary Nico (Jamie Foxx).
They eventually meet up with Jewel’s presumed-dead family, ruled over by her tough, authoritarian, father, Eduardo (Andy Garcia), who is less than thrilled by her choice of husband. He favours her childhood playmate, the charming and crooning Roberto (Bruno Mars), who naturally makes Blu jealous. There are plenty of musical intermissions – Anne Hathaway gets to sing again after her Oscar-winning stint in Les Miserables, plus veteran performer Rita Moreno (playing Jewel’s aunt) adds some class to the musical proceedings – as the story tackles human plans to cut down the forest where the birds have made their home.
Further danger comes in the form of Blu and Jewel’s old enemy, the nasty and deranged cockatoo Nigel (Jemaine Clement, whose character was a highlight of the original film) who is bent on revenge, and helped in his mission by Gabi (Kristin Chenoweth), a pink dart frog who is desperately in love with Nigel, but whose poisonous skin makes contact with him out of the question.
While the adventure and humour – and message about saving the plant etc – is all very familiar and certainly well presented (though there are also a couple of scary moments for youngsters involving snakes and piranhas) it is simply that the original film’s Rio de Janeiro locations offered up so much more unique entertainment that this largely jungle-bound romp, which often plays more like a musical than a family adventure.
Production companies: 20th Century Fox Animation, Blue Sky Studios
Distribution: 20th Century Fox
Producers: Bruce Anderson, John C. Donkin
Executive producer: Chris Wedge.
Screenplay: Don Rhymer, Carlos Kotkin, Jenny Bicks, Yoni Brenner, based on a story by Carlos Saldanha
Cinematography: Renato Falcao
Editor: Harry Hitner
Music: John Powell
Main cast: (voices) Anne Hathaway, Jesse Eisenberg, Jemaine Clement, Kristin Chenoweth, will.i.am, George Lopez, Bruno Mars, Leslie Mann, Rodrigo Santoro, Rita Moreno, Tracy Morgan, Jake T. Austin, Andy Garcia, Jamie Foxx, Rachel Crow, Pierce Gagnon, Amandla Stenberg, Miguel Ferrer