'Rio' a fun, colorful trip

Article Published: Apr. 21, 2011 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
 'Rio' a fun, colorful trip

George Lopez, Jesse Eisenberg and Anne Hathaway lend their voices to 'Rio.'


Finally, a movie where dancing, rapping, computer-generated animals are justified.

Through the past decade, Hollywood has exploited a profitable formula for kids' movies, and that indubitably involves animated animals rapping and/or dancing. Without fail.

Even if they don't in the film, they will in the trailer.

My get-rich-quick movie would include a CGI stable mouse voiced by Chris Tucker, called Squeaky G, who raps "Electric Avenue" to a despondent horse voiced by Alec Baldwin.

Fortunately, in "Rio," the new animated comedy from "Ice Age" director Carlos Saldanha, the dancing and music have context and are hardly arbitrary.

The context isn't anything fresh, but it's inarguably fun and laugh-out-loud funny. Escaping the bleak landscape of "Ice Age," Saldanha journeys to the colorful lushness of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to tell the tale of Blu (Jesse Eisenberg, "The Social Network"), a macaw, who, as a hatchling, is caught by smugglers and whisked away to Minnesota, where he's adopted by bookish girl Linda (Leslie Mann, "Funny People").

Fifteen years pass, and Blu and Linda are inseparable - as demonstrated by a hilarious pan through Linda's framed photos. But there's trouble in their midwestern paradise, when Brazilian ornithologist Tulio (Rodrigo Santoro, "Che") arrives with grave news: Blu and one other macaw are the last of their species, and, if blue macaws are to endure, Blu must visit Rio to, uh, propagate.

Upon arrival, he meets his free-spirited counterpart, Jewel (Anne Hathaway, "Love and Other Drugs"), who's not impressed and would rather escape Tulio's bird sanctuary.

But those plans are interrupted by a group of bumbling smugglers, led by Marcel (Carlos Ponce, "Couples Retreat") and his gleefully sadistic cockatoo, Nigel (Jemaine Clement, HBO's "Flight of the Conchords"), who bird-nap the blue-feathered duo.

Though chained together at the ankle (or the avian equivalent), they manage to escape, but only in time for Jewel to learn Blu's inconvenient secret - he doesn't know how to fly.

Hiding in the jungle, and with Nigel and a band of thieving monkeys in hot pursuit, they formulate a plan to free themselves and reunite Blu with Linda, but they'll need a little help from some newfound friends - namely smooth-talking toucan Rafael (George Lopez, "Beverly Hills Chihuahua") and streetwise, ever-bantering birds Nico (Jamie Foxx, "Ray") and Pedro (will.i.am, "X-Men Origins: Wolverine").

Can Blu overcome his own limitations and, ahem, take flight? Perhaps. Will he and Jewel grow closer through adversity? More than likely. Will Jamie Foxx and will.i.am dance and rap? Aboslutely.

Though not a by-the-books musical, music plays a large role. Saldanha captures the samba heartbeat of Rio during Carnival with a lively score and amusing musical numbers that'll have toes tapping and tail feathers shaking.

The greatest accomplishment, though, is the animation. Vividly colored, rich in texture and incredibly detailed, "Rio" is a visual feast, and an effective 3-D presentation heightens the experience.

But story-wise, it's somewhat lacking. Fox Animation has never been able to duplicate the heart that Pixar seems to own lock, stock and barrel. "Rio" recycles a gaggle of clichés and plot points from countless kids' features, making the final product almost unabashedly predictable.

But clever dialogue, visual panache and abundant cheerfulness overcome, making this trip to "Rio" worth the airfare.

And a new animated short, "Scrat's Continental Crack-Up," featuring the perpetually unlucky saber-toothed squirrel from "Ice Age," shouldn't be missed.

"Rio," rated PG for mild off-color humor, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone. For show times, see page 23 or http://www.mountaintimes.com/movies.

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