Release Date: April 11, 2014
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway, Leslie Mann, Bruno Mars, Jemaine Clement, George Lopez, Jamie Foxx, will.i.am, Jake T. Austin, Rodrio Santoro, Tracy Morgan, Andy Garcia, Kristen Chenoweth, Rachel Crow, Amandla Stenberg, Pierce Gagnon
Director: Carlos Saldanha
Studio: Blue Sky Studios, 20th Century Fox Studios
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Genre(s): Family, Musical, Animated
Review Spoilers: Mild
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Rio is probably one of the best animated, non-Disney movies I’ve ever seen. I love it. It’s fun, it’s cute, it has a phenomenal cast, and it’s got pretty great music. How can you go wrong? When I heard they were making a second I was totally on board. The first movie had set a really high bar but this is one of those franchises where I wasn’t really worried about they going for round two. Rio had been such a phenomenal film that it caused Disney to back down and cancel their own, similar film. Rio 2 was going to be a blast.
And I was totally right.
While Rio 2 can’t match up to the magic that is Rio, the film does a good job of holding it’s own and staying true to itself. Picking up a few years after the original film we find Jewel and Blu living together in Rio with Tulio, Linda, and Fernando (now adopted by the couple) as well as their three children in a bird sanctuary. Like Blu, the children have been come rather domesticated and used to the domestic lifestyle as much as Jewel tries to help them learn a few things about being a wild bird. When they hear that Tulio and Linda think they have found a colony of Blue Sphinx Macaws hidden deep in the Amazon Jewel convinces Blu and the kids to go along with her to the Amazon to help their human friends find this colony. Following a long are some familiar faces as Rafael, Pedro, and Nico are absolutely convinced that they will find the next big talent somewhere deep in the Amazon. They are also joined by a host of new friends and relatives who and an old enemy, Nigel, who returns with his own poisonous hanger-on.
It all goes about as well as you can expect at first. At least for Blu. A domesticated city bird, he’s not ready for the Amazon. But with Jewel right at home and the kids falling right into the swing of things Blu had to muster up the bird inside of him and fight to defend his new home from an illegal logging company hellbent on making profit at the expense of this endangered species.
The plot was a little stereotypical, sure. The city bird goes into the wild, acts like a fool, and has to earn the respect of the hardened, grizzled wild birds who don’t see him as an equal. But it doesn’t matter. It works so well. Blu is a great character and it’s nice to see how he and Jewel have grown and developed as time has progressed. By the time we catch up with them again they’ve been parents for a while and their kids are great with their own dynamic personalities, interests, and skills.
But the story is still largely about Blu, our plucky and hopelessly nerdy little blue macaw.
It’s a story about how Blu rises to the challenge to prove his worth to not only others but to himself, too.
Jesse Eisenberg is great as Blu and I could go on and on about how it’s the perfect casting choice. But if I did that you’d never hear the end of it because the same can be said of every single character in this film. The big name stars really up the game and they do a remarkable job. It’s a talented group of people and every new addition to the cast was absolutely spot on. Bruno Mars was perfect as Roberto and Kristen Chenoweth is always amazing.
And the music – the music!
I’m so glad they brought Janelle Monae on board for this film because she is amazing. Absolutely amazing. Ashley has covered some of her music before and she’s turned a lot of us into fans. I just wish she had a bigger speaking role in the film or some larger part. I would have loved it. Bruno Mars, though, is front and center in a pretty large role and he gets to make the most of his voice. I don’t know if the little kids in the theatre recognized it or appreciated it but it was nice for those of us who could tell who everyone was in the movie.
Honestly, the only thing that really seemed out of place at times was Nigel’s side story. It was important to have him around following the family as they traveled to the Amazon because otherwise it could have been pretty boring. But I’m not going to lie you could have cut it out and it would have still been the same movie. But who doesn’t like a bit of old fashioned revenge thrown in, right? It doesn’t distract from things too much.
And I could have done with a little more Linda and Tulio because I absolutely love them. But don’t worry, there’s quite a bit of them in the film. I’m just nitpicky. And Linda is kind of my spirit animal.
If you’re kids aren’t quite old enough to follow the intricacies of Captain America: The Winter Soldier and you’re looking for a family friendly movie to see this weekend or any upcoming weekend then this is the film for you. Obviously you’ll want to see the first one first if you haven’t but if you haven’t then what is wrong with you? See it now. See it right now.
If you liked the first Rio, you’ll like Rio 2. The music is just as catching, the characters just as quirky and charming. While the title might not make too much sense (it’s set almost entirely in the Amazon!) it’s definitely a sequel that builds upon the original in ways that only make the story even better. This movie is a must-see for fans of the original.