Rio 2 (2014)
Editor’s Notes: Rio 2 is now out in wide release.
Rio 2 does what few sequels are able to do: equal the original. It in no way surpasses the original, which was a good but unremarkable film in and of itself and that’s just what the sequel is. It’s brightly colored, well humored, charming and utterly predictable.
The story picks up not long after the first one lets off, with Blu (Jessie Eisenberg) and Jewel (Anne Hathaway) living in a Brazilian wildlife preserve with their children under the auspice they are the last Spix’s macaws in existence. Then, they see a newscast featuring Linda (Leslie Mann) (who was Blu’s owner from Minnesota in the first film) and Tulio (Rodrigo Santoro) (who runs the facility and married Linda) from the rainforest stating that they may have found an entire colony of Spix’s macaws in the wild. This gives Jewel the idea of packing up the family and taking them to the Amazon to help Linda and Tulio locate the colony so the area can be preserved and protected from illegal logging operations.
Rio 2 does what few sequels are able to do: equal the original. It in no way surpasses the original, which was a good but unremarkable film in and of itself and that’s just what the sequel is.
They spend a reasonably uneventful trip to the Amazon, with their gang of friends from the first film voiced by George Lopez, will.i.am and Jamie Foxx. Also reprising his role as Nigel, the evil cockatoo that was thought to be killed (unless you watch all the way to the end of the credits) is Jemane Clement, who has assembled a team to track down and kill Blu for causing his misery. His team is a silent anteater named Charlie (complete with bowler hat) and Gabi (Kristen Chenoweth), a poisonous frog with an unhealthy obsession with Nigel. This ragtag group start tracking Blu and his entourage in an attempt to exact his revenge. Nigel cannot fly now due to the injuries sustained in the first film, which is ironic because it was during the same event that Blu learned to fly.
When they finally get to the Amazon, they locate the other macaws and learn that it is Jewel’s family. Edwardo (Andy Garcia) first sees them and realizes Jewel is his daughter. She and the kids are immediately taken in by the group, with Blu seen as an outsider because he didn’t grow up in the wild. Blu hates it there and wants to find Linda and go back to the preserve, and a bunch of misunderstandings cause more misunderstandings and hilarity should ensue.
The thing is, the film never really gets a comic rhythm. There are jokes and there are things that make you chuckle, but never really laugh. The awkwardness Blu feels in the wild is similar to the awkwardness he felt being displaced from Minnesota in the first film. Like with most situational comedies (which is basically what this is), an extra line of explanation would clear up 70-90% of the problems being faced but then, in the words of Amy Adams’ Mary from The Muppets (2011), this would be a really short movie. The main source of comedy is Clement’s Nigel, mostly because it’s Clement and he puts everything into this character, who has really flipped his wig and delights in reciting Hamlet to Gabi and fancies himself as a great actor. All of his plots go tremendously awry and they are the comic highlights of the film.
The plot is what ultimately brings the film down. Everything about how the film was rendered is beautiful, from the landscapes to the character design.
The plot is what ultimately brings the film down. Everything about how the film was rendered is beautiful, from the landscapes to the character design. The look of the film is nearly perfect, which is what makes it so sad that the story doesn’t do it justice. The colors are vibrant and all of the scenes pop visually. I was particularly impressed by the animation of the birds, with the movement of the feathers and their overall movement. It looks like the animators did their homework on the movements of these birds and sought to get their walking and flying down right. Much more work went into the animation than went into the script or the performances.
It’s not to say the performances are bad, just kind of phoned in, with the exception of Clement and Garcia. Garcia may not be the funniest part of it, but he’s obviously enjoying himself. Everyone else is just kind of there and sound a little bored. Everyone does their part and it just feels like they were contractually obligated to do the sequel, whether they wanted to or not. It all works well enough, but it never really transcends okay.
It’s easy to let the film roll and it never gets boring nor does it talk down to kids or adults like all of the kids films so far this year (save The Lego Movie). It’s nice to just kind of sit there and not really have to think about what is going to happen next because you already know. When the plot isn’t working or when the comedy isn’t really gelling, there’s more than enough to look at to fill the time between lulls.
I’m still not sure what made director Carlos Saldana think that Rio deserved or could muster a sequel. The first one ends fairly well, and I don’t remember it being all that popular though it certainly didn’t fail at the box office. The premise for the sequel is much more believable and a better extension of the original story than many sequels, which often strain to have a story to tell. The first one did leave room for this film and the finding of more macaws after Blu and Jewel were thought to be the last ones. It’s not outlandish and that works in its favor, but where they ultimately take it is just too predictable. The stakes in the final battle between the birds, Linda, Tulio and the loggers is straight out of Avatar (2009) and there is never a moment that you don’t think things will turn out the way you think it will.
All in all though, it’s a fun enough time to spend at the theater. It’s good for all ages (including apparently babies) because there are no lewd jokes or even fart jokes (!). Kids will enjoy it more than adults, but the adults at least won’t be bored.
Rio 2 is brightly colored, well humored, charming and utterly predictable.