Rio

Posted on April 14, 2011 at 6:00 pm

B+
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating: G
Profanity: None
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Mild peril
Diversity Issues: A theme of the movie
Date Released to Theaters: April 15, 2011
Date Released to DVD: August 1, 2011
Amazon.com ASIN: B004HO6I4M

A South American setting and striking animation lend freshness to “Rio’s” otherwise much-traveled storyline about a pampered pet who has to learn to survive in the wild.  We’ve seen this tale many times — “Madagascar,” “Bolt,” “The Wild,” “Beverly Hills Chihuahua,”and more.  But this version is buoyed by local color — literally, with a vibrantly sun-drenched palette, along with a sensationally festive Carnival parade, and a slinky samba-liscious soundtrack overseen by Rio’s most enduringly popular musical export, Sergio Mendes.

Blu (voice of “The Social Network’s” Jesse Eisenberg) is a rare blue macaw who was captured by animal smugglers in Brazil as a tiny chick.  His crate falls out of a truck in snowy Minnesota (identified onscreen simply as “Not Rio”) and is rescued by a little girl named Linda.  He grows up blissfully domesticated and never bothers to learn to fly.  Everything he wants is within reach.  He brings Linda her glasses when she wakes up and she makes sure he has just the right number of marshmallows in his hot chocolate.  As he explains, he is not a pet; he is a companion.  And Linda says he is her best friend.

They are visited by an ornithologist named Tulio (voice of Rodrigo Santoro), who tells Linda (voice of Leslie Mann) there is just one last surviving female blue macaw (voice of Anne Hathaway as Jewel).  Unless they mate, it will be the end of their species.  Linda reluctantly agrees to take Blu to Brazil.  But smugglers show up again to steal Blu and Jewel.  Blu has to learn some survival skills and make some new friends to find his way back to Linda.

Blue Sky is the studio that produced the “Ice Age” series and it is obvious that they are glad to be done with the endless blues and grays of the ice, snow, and rock settings.  Brazilian-born director Carlos Saldanha (director of “Ice Age” and co-director of the underrated “Robots”) takes evident pride and delight in bringing his home town to the screen, taking full advantage of 3D CGI so that we can swoop around the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue atop the Corcovado Mountain and hang-glide over miles of beaches.  He has fun with Brazilian culture, too.  When Carnival revelers cross in front of their car, Linda asks Tulio if a woman in a gold-spangled costume is a performer.  “No,” he replies, “she’s my dentist.”  As the woman in the spangles happily runs off to the celebration, she reminds Tulio to floss.  And Blu provides a critique of samba music that will sound familiar to its fans.

Eisenberg’s tremulous voice is just right for Blu, giving him a neurotic, urban, understated wit.  “You know how people say ‘it’s a jungle out there?'” he complains to Jewel when they find themselves in the middle of a rainforest. “Not a good thing.”  He gets strong support from Tracy Morgan as a bulldog, George Lopez as a toucan, and Will.i.Am and Jamie Foxx as friendly birds.  The story may not be new, but in fairness it is a theme that is very appealing to children, whose entire lives are about finding themselves outside their safe, domestic environment and trying to navigate the wild and sometimes scary unpredictability of real life.

The star of the show in every respect is a cockatoo named Nigel (voice of Jermaine Clement of HBO’s “Flight of the Conchords”), one of the most masterfully animated characters in movie history.  Blue Sky Studios created a remarkable bird villain named Vlad three years ago in “Horton Hears a Who.”  It was a daunting mechanical challenge to animate the infinite complexities of dozens of wing joints and thousands of feathers but Vlad was on screen only briefly.  Here the Blue Sky animators take what they learned from Vlad much further.  Nigel is a key figure with an even more complicated structure, at once menacing and shambling, who sings, dances, menaces, and fights, all in character.  The algorithms necessary for what can only be called Nigel’s performance could probably have programmed a moon shot, and yet he seems completely natural and fluidly expressive.   Clement’s voice work is a perfect balance of mean and funny, and Nigel’s musical tribute to his own villainy is pure pleasure.

Saldanha is at his best when there are dozens of characters on screen.  Whether they are dancing or fighting, they are colorful, joyous, and meticulously choreographed.  A battle between the birds and the monkeys is exciting and funny and the opening dance number is a kaleidoscopic treat.  The climax, in the middle of a Carnival parade with massive floats and crowds of thousands is brilliantly imagined.  Blu spends most of the movie trying to get off the ground, but with Nigel and these big, showy scenes, Saldanha makes the movie soar.

 

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Rio Meets the Angry Birds!

Posted on February 2, 2011 at 2:59 pm

AngryBird_Rio_Feature2.jpg
The hottest game around is partnering with the new animated film “RIO” for a Super Bowl ad that unlocks a secret to the game — and possibly a trip to Brazil!
“RIO” is a 3D comedy-adventure, from the “Ice Age” people about Blu (“The Social Network’s” Jesse Eisenberg). He’s a domesticated Macaw who never learned to fly, living a comfortable life with his owner and best friend Linda (voice of Leslie Mann) in the small town of Moose Lake, Minnesota. Blu and Linda think he’s the last of his kind, but when they learn about another Macaw who lives in Rio de Janeiro, they head to the faraway and exotic land to find Jewel (voice of Anne Hathaway), Blu’s female counterpart. Not long after they arrive, Blu and Jewel are kidnapped by a group of bungling animal smugglers. With the help of street smart Jewel, and a group of wise-cracking and smooth-talking city birds, Blu escapes. Now, with his new friends by his side, Blu will have to find the courage to learn to fly, thwart the kidnappers who are hot on their trail, and return home to Linda. Featuring the voices of Jamie Foxx, George Lopez, and the Black-Eyed Peas’ will.i.am, the movie opens on April 15.
Watch for the Super Bowl ad for the movie to find a frame with an embedded code that direct you to a special level on ANGRY BIRDS, Rovio’s blockbuster game. That level will take you to a RIO sweepstakes.
The sweepstakes winner will attend RIO’s world premiere in Rio de Janeiro on March 22. That same day, Fox and Rovio will launch the “Angry Birds Rio” app.
Did you miss the ad? Want to see it again? The spot will be available across the web, including YouTube, after the Super Bowl.
The rules:
NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Starts 2/6/11 at 4:00 pm PT, and Ends 3/1/2011 at 11:59 pm PT. Open only to legal U.S. citizens, 18 and older and is subject to Official Rules. For Official Rules visit http://www.rio-themovie.com/officialrules. For alternate means of entry without a purchase, visit http://www.rio-themovie.com/win. Odds of winning depend on number of entries. Void in Puerto Rico, and where prohibited. Winner and guest are each required to have a valid U.S. passport and to obtain a visa to Brazil.

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