From bunnies to birds, this Easter feels like a nature zone of full of cuddly cuteness. It’s the battle of the studio giants for your kids’ attention, with Universal’s Hop (out last week) verses 20th Century’s new holiday offering, Rio. What the latter has to offer, though, is all the spirit of Rio for weary adults craving a break in the sun, plus some vibrant, heart-felt fun set to infectious Samba vibes.
The story follows Blu (voiced by Jesse Eisenberg), a non-flying blue macaw who is smuggled out of the jungles surrounding Rio de Janeiro, and ends up by accident in small-town Minnesota, where he meets his devoted bookstore owner, Linda (voiced by Leslie Mann). After a doctor comes to town and tells Linda that Blu is needed as one of the last of his kind to mate with another macaw called Jewel (voiced by Anne Hathaway), both bird and owner find themselves travelling to Brazil’s party town. After meeting the fiercely independent Jewel, Blu finds himself on a self-discovery adventure in Rio that ultimately leads to love.
From its opening scene, Rio’s animation’s colourful jungle life gets you straight in the mood for the lighter evenings ahead, complete with solo songs later on from stars Jamie Foxx and Will i Am. Reminiscent of The Jungle Book, the animation is designed to pulsate with the beat in the livelier scenes, in stark contrast with the awe-inspiring, sweeping panoramic views over the coastline when Blu hitches a ride on the back of an unsuspecting, passing hand glider or bird. These sequences make excellent use of the 3D, as do others, showing the attention to detail that director Carlos Saldanha and his team have given to building each shot. In fact, since Ice Age, the quality and detail has noticeably improved, resulting in a radiant and totally immersive atmosphere that previous film’s backdrops lacked. The same erratic and energetic animal movements are still present, though, as are some of the clichéd storyline outcomes.
The height of coolness in increased with a voice provided by Oscar-nominated Eisenberg (The Social Network), indie’s current darling, who brings to life a touching vulnerability to Blu’s personality. Blu’s awkward ‘coming-of-age’ moments feel that much more real with Eisenberg’s self-doubting acting personality injected in them. Hathaway adds the ‘get-up-and-go’ spirit needed to trigger events, while boosting Blu’s ego, but not before she gives him a hard time. It’s the classic love story of opposites meeting and attracting that translates well to birds in this case.
No animation would be complete without the supporting cast, including the bad guys, a smuggling gang made up of men, birds (like Nigel, voiced by Jemaine Clement) and monkeys (note The Jungle Book nod), trying to derail proceedings – as well as the carnival. The greedy gang want to make money out of a pair of rare blue macaw birds, and are constantly pursuing our heroes. There are also the token ‘jokers’, an oddball grouping of Nico (Foxx) and Pedro (Will I Am), reacting to the older, wiser Rafael (voiced by George Lopez). This loyal trio are highly entertaining in their own right, often driving the action and plot. And as with any kids’ film, it is friends that make up the surrogate family that make the film. Nico, Pedro and Rafael are no exception, pulling out all the stops for the macaws.
With its sizzling, sunny premise, catchy beats, wild adventure and endearing cast, Rio is Easter’s winning combination. So, the Marvellous City is calling – and no need to get those inoculations and jump on a plane, either.
By Lisa Giles-Keddie
(Follow Lisa on Twitter: @FilmGazer)