by Mary McCarthy
There is a basic formula to an animated children’s movie. Be it Disney, Dreamworks, Pixar, or in the case of Rio, Blue Sky Studios/20th Century Fox (makers of Ice Age); it matters not.
The formula goes something like this:
- Introduce sympathetic underdog character.
- Underdog faces personal challenge.
- Underdog battles villain while experiencing action and adventure.
- Underdog overcomes challenge, finds love and lives happily ever after.
This film, like so many hundreds of others, does not stray from this formula, which is fine, since it’s a formula we’ve all come to know and (unbeknownst to us) expect.
Rio is a story about a rare blue macaw, kidnapped as a blue chick and now living in a book store in Minnesota. Blu is discovered by a scientist who convinces the bird’s bookstore owner adoptive human mother to return to Brazil because Blu and a girl blue macaw are the last of their species. Jesse Eisenberg, once you get the image of him as Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network out of your head, is fantastic as Blu, and Anne Hathaway is equally perfect as Jewel, the female blue macaw.
Other celebrity voices include will.i.am, Jamie Foxx, Leslie Mann, George Lopez and way-too-short appearances by Wanda Sykes and Jane Lynch. Jemaine Clement (Despicable Me) is fantastic as the voice of the evil bird Nigel.
Adventure ensues (see formula above) including fantastic animated scenery of Rio de Janeiro at Carnival time; it will make every parent in the room want to immediately travel there for vacation. (Seriously, the movie should have been funded by the Brazil tourism people).
Unlike many animated movies of late, the use of 3D is actually not a complete waste. The flying scenes look pretty neat and oftentimes kids reach out to ‘touch’ a flying bird. Also, the music is fantastic- really upbeat and fun.
Is the movie worth seeing with your kids this weekend? Yes. They will love it. I know this because I listened to the reactions of a packed movie theatre full of kids last night, three of whom were my own, and they all completely loved it. I haven’t heard an entire theatre of people clapping together in a movie in a long time, and they enthusiastically did during this one.
Is it one of the best written animated movies you’ll see this year? Huge-mountaintop-Jesus statue, I hope not. The writing is definitely not meant for grown-ups to chuckle to themselves at the double entendre and snark. It’s a kids’ movie. I’m not sure it’s on par with Ice Age, but it’s a good movie if not a great one.
The PG rating is allegedly for off color humor, but I honestly couldn’t tell you what it was, and conjures images of whoever does these ratings as puritanical 17th century religious types sitting in a room covering their mouths and gasping when a bird shakes its tail feathers during a rap song.
Mary McCarthy is Editor of Chesapeake Family magazine and after completing all levels of the Angry Birds Rio game app, was disappointed that there were no Angry Birds references in the film.