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SPECIAL COVERAGE: 'RIO'
Review: 'Rio' Flies High With Humor, Heart
By Tim Lammers
April 15, 2011
INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & MOVIE NEWS BY TIM LAMMERS
The creators of the "Ice Age" trilogy apparently need a vacation in the sun -- and they've found a welcome destination in "Rio," a vibrant, funny and sometimes emotional tale that is easily is the best animated release so far this year.
While there are a few parallels to the "Ice Age" film, the plot of this animal-themed narrative for the most part travels in a different direction. Like "Ice Age," "Rio" starts in snowy confines, as a crate containing a rare breed of bird falls off a truck onto a curbside in the northern town of Moose Lake, Minn. Found by a local girl, Linda Gunderson (just like Marge Gunderson in "Fargo"), the baby blue creature becomes her best friend as she raises him over the next 15 years.
Picking up the action as an adult, we find Linda (voiced by Leslie Mann) as the owner of her own bookstore in Moose Lake, with Blu always at her side.
So domesticated that he doesn't even know how to fly, Blu and Linda lives are thrown for a loop when Tulio (Rodrigo Santoro), a South American ornithologist (aka bird doctor), pops in to Linda's bookstore with some earth-shattering news: As it turns out, Blu is the last living male Blu Macaw, and only a trip to Rio de Janeiro, where he'll need to become lovebirds with the last female Blue Macaw, Jewel (Anne Hathaway), will ensure the species' survival.
Reluctantly making the trip to Rio, Linda and Blu's worst fears are realized when Blu and Jewel are bird-napped by smugglers, and are destined to be sold on the black market.
'Ice Age' Filmmakers Spread Wings With Colorful Bird Tale
But Jewel, who has plenty of spunk, isn't about to fold up her wings easily, and plots an escape that will not only reunite Blu with Linda, but will allow her return to the rainforest.
The plot of "Rio" is fairly predictable from the outset -- Jewel isn't exactly attracted to Blu, but will learn to love each other along the way -- but it really doesn't matter. Thanks to crackling dialogue (or is it cackling?), swift action, a gorgeous animated setting and yes, even entertaining musical numbers, "Rio" is a delight to watch from start to finish. The heart of "Rio" also grows bigger as the film flies towards its conclusion, and a rousing musical number to wrap things up may just find you wiping away tears.
Eisenberg's and Hathaway's voice performances are engaging as the not-so-loving lovebirds, and the performances by the supporting voice cast -- including Jamie Foxx, will.i.am and George Lopez -- are spot-on. Adding to the harmonious narrative are vocal performances by will.i.am as well as Foxx -- who may just have a career opportunity after this crooning South American love ballads. "Flight of the Conchords" star Jemaine Clement adds a little menace to the proceeding as henchbird for the bad guys.
Perhaps the most amazing development to come out of "Rio" is that the digital 3D mostly works. It's not perfect, by any means, but director Carlos Saldanha clearly wanted to play up the benefits of the format by occasionally extending the action out into the audience.
For the most part, the 3D adds depth to "Rio," and unlike most 3D films, the brightness of the picture isn't diminished by the dark lenses in the glasses. Of course, the bright colors help, which is only appropriate. It's a bright, cheery and feel-good tale that proves you can overcome any obstacles that fly in your way.