Monday, April 21, 2014

Rio 2 Review

Rio 2 review
I want to start this review by stating that I very much enjoyed "Rio" back in 2011. I liked the many songs, I liked the characters, I liked how energetic it was. I was absolutely hypnotized by the mesmerizing animation of and how the colors seem to wash over the audience in the theater. I usually cannot stand the presence of both Jesse Eisenberg or Anne Hathaway, but their voice-work was well-done and utilized to a tee. It didn't revolutionize the animation genre nor did it change the genre, but it was a fun time at the theater. Sometimes that is all you need.

Jesse Eisenberg and Anne Hathaway are back in "Rio 2," reprising their voices for Blu (Eisenberg) and Jewel (Hathaway). Also returning are Jamie Foxx, will.i.am, and Tracy Morgan return as Nico, Pedro and Luiz respectively. So does Leslie Mann and Rodrigo Santaro as Linda and Tulio, the humans who took care of Blue and Jewel in the first film. This sequel takes place a few years after the first film and Blu and Jewel have a family now. While Blu and Jewel are enjoying life in Rio de Janiero, Linda and Tulio are exploring in the Amazon. A crisis with Linda and Tulio forces Blu, Jewel and friends to make their way to the Amazon. In the Amazon, Blu and Jewel come across Jewel's family. Meanwhile, Nigel, the villain from the first film (voiced by Jemaine Clement) is back to get revenge on our heroes for nearly killing him in the first film.

Jewel's family introduces us to most of the new characters in the film. Andy Garcia voices Eduardo, Jewel's father. Bruno Mars voices Roberto, the childhood friend of Jewel. Both Eduardo and Roberto do not approve of Blu's lifestyle or his trust in humans. There is also a rivarly between the Blue Macaws and the Scarlet Macaws, whose leader is Felipe, voiced by Philip Lawrence. I liked the voice work by all the new cast members. Garcia, Mars and Lawrence all create memorable presences through their voices, it is astounding work.

Once again, the film is full of unrelenting color. The animation effects done by Blue Sky Studios and 20th Century Fox Animation is once again beautifully surreal. The details of this animated world get better and better with each new film. The sun-drenched locations are pure eye-candy, and both adult and children alike will be drawn by the power of the wonderful animation. Eisenberg, Hathaway, Foxx, will.i.am, Morgan, Mann and Santaro once again do very persistent voice work. I feel the cast does a good job of making their characters unique, funny, and actual characters. Too many times in children's films, characters are stiff types just for the sake of the children. Here, the cast is able to create rich characters and their characters are complimented by great voice work.

So the thing that bugs me the most about this film is how familiar the premise is. If director Carlos Saldanha put so much effort in creating genuine characters and dreamlike locations, why create such familiar story. Do animation studios seem trapped in typical children's film norms? Do studios think that children will not accept newer styles of storytelling? This is definitely a case where the kids will love this animated adventure moreso than the adults. Perhaps that is what a family seeks when seeing family films, for which "Rio 2" could fit the bill perfectly. But for parents looking for more maybe bitterly disappointed. As I stated above, Blu is not accepted by Jewel's family. So, of course, he will try and fail countless times to gain their respect. His attempts to please Jewel's family will hit a climax so bad it may feel like Blu's life will never be the same, until he steps up, becomes the hero he is and saves the day. I feel most of you could guess that premise by my descriptions above. I don't feel like I particularly spoiled anything, as this has been the product of most children's films for decades. 

The reason why the "Toy Story" trilogy has resonated so much with me over the years is how it was able to challenge its audience. Yes, its true that each film in the trilogy is essentially Woody trying to be there for Andy, but the execution of each film is totally different from the other. In each film, Woody faces a different crisis, in each film there is a different foil. Overall, I also feel that each film in the "Toy Story" trilogy tries to say something very important to all ages. It throws ideas at its us and we are left to sort out those ideas and find out what they mean to us. I feel all great animated films do just that. Each animated film does not need to be the typical finding-a-hero fable, they can be something more. I guess that is what I strive to see as I get older, some new experiment that can touch the hearts of all people. 

If you are only worried about whether or not your child will like the movie, you can relax. "Rio 2" is a good-looking and charming movie. You adults out there may find the film's story a little too familiar, but it is still full of fun. The voice talent is all there and they pull no punches. By and large, this was a welcome back to this story and these characters and there is enough here to enjoy.

FINAL GRADE: B-

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