Director(s): Carlos Saldanha
Writer(s): Don Rhymer, Joshua Sternin, Jeffrey Ventimilia and Sam Harper
Reviewed by: Ian Evans on
Release Date(s)Apr 15, 2011 - Wide
Ice Age director Carlos Saldanha pays tribute to his Brazilian homeland in the colourful children’s film Rio. Blu, a cerulean macaw voiced by Jesse Eisenberg, is taken as a baby from his rain forest home by poachers and on his way to his eventual buyers ends up in a Minnesota snowbank. Fifteen years have gone by and now Blu is the best friend of the woman who rescued him. He and Jesse (Leslie Mann) do everything together, including heading off to work in her second-hand bookstore. They both adore each other, but their cross-species relationship has had the end result of walling them off from a lot of life’s experiences.
Linda gets an unexpected visit from Tulio (Rodrigo Santoro), a Brazilian ornithologist who explains to her that Blu is the last breeding hope the species has. He has the final female of Blu’s species waiting in a sanctuary back in Rio and asks that the pair accompany him to give the birds a hope of continuing. Blu, who doesn’t really venture outdoors and doesn’t know how to fly, is actually more reluctant than his human friend. His intended mate, Jewel (Anne Hathaway), is even less interested in the project than he is, but the pair are thrown together when a double-crossing resident of the bird sanctuary gets Blu and Jewel taken by poachers and they must do what they can to escape.
It’s when the escape attempts begin that this family film really begins to pick up. Blu and Jewel sweep through colourful vistas and the action and comedy of the scenes is aided by Jamie Foxx and Black Eyed Peas’ front man will.i.am as a couple of rapping birds, 30 Rock’s Tracy Morgan as a drooling bulldog and George Lopez as a helpful toucan who really just needs time away from his wife and rambunctious kids. On the other side of the animal spectrum, Flight of the Conchords Jermaine Clement pays a villainous cockatoo. The adventure takes them through luscious jungles, the sounds and sights of Carnival and even the crowded depression of the shanty towns.
This isn’t a Toy Story where the adults are as mentally stimulated as the children. The humour is definitely on a level for the kids but Saldanha and his team have given us such a colourful experience that your eyes will be well fed even if your mind isn’t. The songs are cute, the voice actors well-chosen and I can see this being a favourite DVD of young children who will thrill to the bright scenes and fun sounds of Rio.