Rio brings laughs, lovable characters

Rio hit theaters this weekend, bringing to the screen a family-friendly, colorful romp that is entertaining, despite the formulaic plot.

Though it certainly isn’t a Pixar movie — the comparison is impossible not to make — Rio charms the audience with likeable characters and a general lightheartedness. 

The story centers on Blu (Jesse Eisenberg), a blue macaw living with his human friend and owner Linda (Leslie Mann), a bookshop owner in Minnesota.

Blu’s safe and comfortable life is ruffled when a Brazilian scientist named Tulio (Rodrigo Santoro) comes to the bookshop and informs Linda that Blu is the last male of his kind and he wants Blu to mate with the last female of its kind, Jewel (Anne Hathaway).

Blu and Linda soon travel to Rio to find Jewel, and it quickly becomes apparent Blu and Jewel absolutely can’t stand each other. Yet they are forced to work together when they are kidnapped by precious bird smugglers.

There are a number of interesting characters, most of which have been rendered utterly adorable by the animation. They aren’t incredibly deep, but they’re diverse and kooky enough to satisfy.

Blu, who never learned how to fly, is an instantly sympathetic and loveable lead.

He’s socially awkward, bookish and a bit defensive, but his awkwardness is charming and Eisenberg’s voice successfully brings the character to life.

Jewel is a fiery, take-charge type, who is wise from her life experiences, unlike Blu, who spent most of his life drinking cocoa inside a cozy bookshop.

The villains do their part, but they’re more funny than scary. Nigel (Jemaine Clement), a sulfur-crested Cockatoo henchman, is more evil than the human villains, who are simply out to get rich. Nigel has fun being evil and he’s both charismatic and sinister, which makes him highly enjoyable to watch.

The other characters help move the plot along in a fun way, but far too many of them seem to be there just to provide comedic relief.

The plot itself is pretty formulaic and  it would have benefited from additional solid jokes, which are scarce, instead of relying on certain characters to create a goofy atmosphere.

The music in Rio is a mixed bag. Although there’s some catchy samba, the music is gratuitous and a bit unnecessary. The opening number, with its largely uninteresting lyrics about Rio and perfectly choreographed dancing birds, could have been scrapped completely.

There’s also an equally generic party song and romantic song — in fact, all  the songs  turn out to be distractingly generic.

The film’s music, however, is guilty of a greater crime. What better to sap the magic out of the music in a children’s movie than auto-tune? It’s really only acceptable when it’s used by T-Pain or Auto Tune The News; the people over at Blue Sky Studios should have known that.

The only song that rises above the din is the expositional villain song, which has a higher level of comedy than the rest of the music. And if anyone thinks it sounds suspiciously similar to something Flight of the Conchords might sing, they’re close to the mark; Nigel is voiced by Clement, who is half of the singing comedic duo.

Clement and the two leads are not the only notable voice actors in the film. Other stars include George Lopez,, Tracy Morgan and Jamie Foxx. There are also brief appearances by Wanda Sykes and Jane Lynch.

The color palette of Rio is stunningly beautiful, but it’s also a bit bright and intensely hued.

Sure, the film is for kids, but some extra subtly and layering would have been appreciated by the older audience.

Despite the fact Rio lacks depth, it has enough warm moments to counteract much of the silliness. It’s constantly entertaining  because of the beautiful animation, the wide range of likeable characters, the solid jokes and the well paced adventure that’s about having fun and stepping out of one’s comfort zone.

Rio probably won’t be remembered in 10 years, but for now it’s a fun, colorful adventure.