Rating: 3 stars out of 5
In case you think the birds in Rio are parrots, they are macaws. Hey, don’t look at me—I’m not from Animal Planet. I can’t tell the difference.
To provide a public education service however, I found out that macaws are smaller South American parrots (hence, the title Rio). Actually, I was wondering why the heck this cartoon’s set in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, since it’s a rescue adventure that could’ve taken place anywhere, even in Bukit Batok here.
Well, here’s why.
The story kind of sags as it goes on—don’t they all do?—until it switches to a colourful Rio carnival setting so exuberant it could wake up even a dead parrot (by the way, for the Best Dead Parrot Sketch
Ever, see Monty Python). Last I checked – we don’t have carnivals in Bukit Batok.
So, here’s the deal. This cartoon—fun, lively and comically voiced—makes you totally glad that its creators, Blue Sky Studios, didn’t make Ice Age-whatever.
I mean, I hate bloody songs in a cartoon, but this one didn’t make me want to kill myself.
Oh wait, Ice Age 4 is coming, so don’t be jumping for joy yet.
Anyway, the merry chase is on in Rio because the two main birds—Blu (voiced by The Social Network’s Jesse Eisenberg) and Jewel (Anne Hathaway) —are rare blue macaws fleeing the greedy clutches of a trio of bird smugglers (comprising one nasty boss man and two bungling birdbrains).
Their dirty work is done by a really mean cockatoo, Nigel (Flight of the Conchords’ Jermaine Clement), a henchman, sorry, henchbird which loves making trouble pour as it soars. The foul fowl has a grudge against pretty birds like Jewel because it’s an ex-soap opera star that lost a role to a younger looker years ago.
Plus its so mobster-rooster intimidating it even scares monkeys (watch out for a great MVB showdown – that’s monkeys-vs-birds). I know, I know—you know of a tai-tai chicken like that too.
For funny and cutesy effect, Blu and Jewel are chained together in their great escape—ala The Defiant
Ones. Eisenberg voices him as a more lovable, less toxic version of his Mark Zuckerberg character in The Social Network.
Over here, he’s a whiny fella, possibly a Jewish macaw, who keeps complaining about his shackled predicament in a strange foreign land. “I hate samba,” Blu gripes about the infectious native music, “Every song sounds exactly the same”.
I kept laughing because dammit, the damn bird’s right.
The bird, you see, is actually a domesticated sissy from Minnesota in a permanent state of performance anxiety because it can’t even fly since it’s been a pampered pet all its life to an over-caring human owner. Sent to Rio to breed with equally-rare feathered female, Jewel, they are a mismatched couple right from the start.
“We’re not lovebirds. We’re more like acquaintance birds,” Blu clarifies about his relationship with the very independent-minded, don’t-mess-with-Anne-Hathaway Jewel. You know, throughout the flick, the voices and mannerisms are so distinct I kept picturing Eisenberg and Hathaway together in the flesh, a really amusing and disturbing distraction.
There’s a scene of birdbrained courtship on top a tram car that’s so funny two gals sitting behind me in the theatre laughed so hard I could’ve popped birdseed directly into their mouths. Which makes this easy-on-the-eye, fun-in-the-mouth Rio experience quite a delightful one.
With back-up voices from feathered pals (Jamie Foxx, will.i.am, George Lopez) and a hilarious saliva-drooling, Mardi Gras-nutty bulldog (Tracy Morgan), this escapee escapade is a real trip when it takes flight.
It’d make you want to petition to melt down that boring Ice Age forever.
FYI, Rio director Carlos Saldanha, who also directed those Ice Age flicks, was born in Rio.
So if those folks in that cartoon series complain, well then, just blame it all on Rio.