Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 41 minutes
MPAA Rating: G
Directed by: Carlos Saldanha
Written by: Don Rhymer, Carlos Kotkin, Jenny Bicks & Yoni Brenner
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway, Leslie Mann, Bruno Mars, Jemaine Clement, George Lopez, Jamie Foxx, Will.I.Am, Rodrigo Santoro, Tracy Morgan & Miguel Ferrer
As far as family entertainment goes, the first RIO was nothing to write home about. I thought it was a purely middle-of-the-road movie and many better animated productions have come since. That’s why the decision of making a sequel to RIO seems a little weird. It’s not so strange when I took into consideration that the first movie made bank at the box office. RIO was popular for some reason or another, so I guess one could hope that the sequel might try to improve on the former film. RIO 2 flies in a couple of areas and crashes in nearly every other aspect.
Picking up a few years after the conclusion of RIO, Blu and Jewel (the endangered Macaw couple) are parents to three young birds. Things seem fairly routine and life is good. This changed for Blu when some unexpected evidence surfaces that Blu and Jewel may not be the last of their kind. The family journeys into the Amazon jungles to find a whole flock of Blue Macaws, including Jewel’s long-lost relatives. Blu finds himself drastically out of his domesticated element as he tries to bond with his strict father-in-law. Meanwhile, the scarred Nigel is back for revenge with a poisonous frog sidekick. To make matters even more complicated, humans Linda and Tulio stumble across an illegal logging operation that threatens the trees where the colony lives, all while Blu’s friends hold a auditions for new musical talent.
That synopsis alone should give you an idea about the main problem with RIO 2. There are four credited screenwriters and the movie jumbles together four different plots. It’s almost as if a different script was written for each storyline and then the studio mixed the pages together. That’s exactly how it felt as I was watching this whole thing play out. The running time may not be excessively long, but the movie did drag. One might find this an odd statement given all the stuff happening, but none of it was given enough time to properly develop or capture the viewer’s interest.
Credit where credit is due, I was interested during the first 25 minutes of the story and liked the direction things were moving in. Blu trying to impress his newfound relatives, which plays out like MEET THE PARENTS with birds, could be decent enough. Even the idea of Nigel coming back for revenge was entertaining. However, the logging subplot (which introduced an unnecessary second antagonist) had echoes of FERNGULLY (or more recently, AVATAR). The one subplot that didn’t work for me at all were the birds voiced by Jamie Foxx and will.i.am auditioning jungle animals for talent. Every single time those two wise-cracking feathered friends popped up, I felt like letting out a loud groan.
Speaking of how unfocused the film is. The musical numbers ranged from great to sadly annoying. The film didn’t need a three-minute-long scene of Nigel singing “I Will Survive” with plenty of pop culture references thrown in. The best two songs in the film belong to the jungle birds. There’s also another moment featuring the easily most entertaining character: Gabi the poisonous tree frog. She sings about lamenting how she loves Nigel but is unable to touch him due to her toxic skin condition. The best scenes in the more dull section of the film falling apart all involved Gabi.
The voice cast all do a decent enough job in reprising their roles, but I didn’t really care about the characters that much this time around. Most of this can primarily be blamed on the sheer familiar storyline. We’ve seen this kind of thing play out in many other movies and adding four different plots didn’t keep my interest, but rather made for a sloppy final product. The film’s visuals are quite beautiful to look at, even if the humans look like they could be rendered a tad more (perhaps Pixar just spoiled us with fantastic animation all these years).
RIO 2 is harmless kiddie fare that will keep the young ones occupied for just under two hours. However, the predictable plot, lame jokes, muddled execution, and heavy-handed environmental message (that makes FERNGULLY seem subtle in comparison) make this out to be a bit of a chore for the grown ups to endure. Fox is most likely trying to milk a new franchise out of RIO, much like they completely crashed the ICE AGE series into the ground with each sequel. I though the first RIO was a middle-of-the-road experience and RIO 2 does the typical sequel thing (as MUPPETS MOST WANTED says “the sequels never quite as good”) by lowering the quality significantly. RIO 2 doesn’t come recommended at all. If you want a good piece of family entertainment, MR. PEABODY & SHERMAN and MUPPETS MOST WANTED are far more deserving choices than this lame sequel.