I usually love myself an animated film. And the films by the guys behind Ice Age, at least the first one, was to me, a pinnacle of film making using animation that wasn’t Dreamworks or Pixar who was behind it. Their later attempts, such as Robots was okay, being a fulfilling movie but not having, to me at least, the same emotional heart that their first attempt had.
Cut to present, Rio feels like an attempt to do too many things at once. I can understand why Pixar shelved their ‘newt’ film, as the premise is almost exactly the same as this one, and Pixar isn’t big on making redundancy work, and both possibly would have come out within a year or two of each other. The plot of Rio is that of a bird, Blu (voiced by Jesse Eisenberg) who is taken to Rio by his owner, to mate as he is the last of his kind. Blu though is thoroughly domesticated, so much that he can’t fly. Granted, that doesn’t stop him, he is actually a very intelligent bird, I guess ‘book-smart’ but in terms of the ways of birds, he has zero bird-like ‘street smarts’. When Blu and Jewel(Anne Hathaway), his new bride to be bird wise, not only fail to hit it off but get kidnapped by bird-smugglers, you can get a general idea where the story is going to go.
Usually in these situations, a film can be a delight, like with Ice Age or Robots, or any other animated film. I usually hate the term ‘oh, that animated movie was cute’ because it means in some instances that the film wasn’t taken seriously, a problem I have with most animation to the general masses, that it is not taken seriously and that it is all for kids. A film like Rio though is by the very definition, the word, ‘cute’.
The problem ultimately is that the film has no idea what exactly it wants to be. Even the romance,which you know will happen in this type of film, sometimes films make it seem interesting enough until the film is over to not make me remember the cliche or trope, but Rio felt off somehow; It was a glaring.
And then there is the attempt at recreating and focusing the energy of Rio via music and dance. While I enjoyed the casting, and the song at the end, the songs themselves were more made to be musical numbers from a musical, but the film didn’t feel like a musical. I’ll give it to Disney, that films like the Lion King amongst others don’t feel like musicals, but it doesn’t make you feel awkward when the song starts. It feels natural that this occurs. And it again all starts with the tone of the film, a message to the audience on how this is going to turn out.
Personally, I thought it took too much time focusing on the human owner Linda (Lesile Mann) as a side journey, and honestly, I wanted more time with the birds as ‘I literally don’t care about her’ in the film. It’s not her journey so much as Blu’s’ and the whole point is that Blu and Linda are birds of a feather despite being different species, and you could clearly have Linda show up at the end of the film and quickly showcase that she too has evolved a bit like Blu has.
Also while I enjoyed the bad guy ‘Nigel’ played by Flight of the Conchords’ Jemaine Clement, he also felt a bit stiff, maybe something a bit more personal in regards to either Jewel or Blu would have been nice. But again, the film was trying to be too many things without knowing what to focus on. And while I can say I druther they do this or druther they do that, ultimately it won’t matter.
It was nice to see Jesse Eisenberg play another role that suited him perfectly, and mad props goes to George Lopez, who also sounded perfectly cast as the role, and actually one of the parts of the film I wished for more of.
Overall the film was okay, more ‘cute’ than anything, but if it was just adults, I’d skip it. The kids though will love this one.