Off I go to the movies, and I choose “Rio.”
Linda, the owner of a small bookshop in a small town in Minnesota, gets an unexpected visit from an ornithologist (a scientist who studies birds, or a bird freak, for short) named Tulio who is from Rio de Janeiro. Tulio convinces Linda to fly to Rio so that her pet companion Blu, an endangered male Macaw so domesticated he doesn’t know how to fly, would get to be with the only other remaining blue macaw in the world, Jewel, a freedom loving female bird who resents being kept inside the aviary.
A short time after arriving in Rio, Blu and Jewel are kidnapped by men involved in illegal animal trade. Although they bicker a lot, they somehow manage to break free from their locked cage. With the help of some other birds and one mean-looking non-feathered friend, Blu and Jewel must rely on each other and travel around Rio to escape their hunters while Linda and Tulio try to find them.
The plot is old and simple. Just a light action caper and a romance subplot with a lot of chasing going on. “Rio” does try to be relevant by presenting a real environmental concern which is animal smuggling. What gives life to an otherwise tired, formulaic movie is the visual and acoustic delight that is the Rio de Janeiro backdrop.
The trailer promises a colorful movie at least, and on that note, the movie doesn’t disappoint. The movie opens with a picturesque forest scene where birds of varying types, sizes and colors are singing while doing synchronized flying and dancing. The main story is conveniently set during Rio’s Carnival time, so fantastic floats and costumes add on to the kaleidoscope of colors and vibrant streetscape as pulsating samba music plays in the background.
I liked Jesse Eisenberg’s and Tracy Morgan’s voice work. Jesse as Blu wonderfully captures the perceived vulnerability of a domesticated bird who knows he is out of his element when he’s out of his comfortable Minnesota cage. Tracy as the mean-looking, disgusting bulldog Luiz is hilarious as always, providing the few laughs I had in the whole movie. Anne Hathaway as Jewel is fine, but she is typecast even in voice roles as the energetic, bright-eyed, singing female lead.
This is a light summer movie worth watching only if you want to just relax and have some mindless fun. Go see it with the kids. They always enjoy movies where there’s a lot of flying going on.