Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Carlos Saldanha
Stars voices of: Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway, Andy Garcia, Leslie Mann, Miguel Ferrer, Jemaine Clement, Kristin Chenowith, Jake T Austin, Jamie Foxx, Pierce Gagnon, George Lopez, Bruno Mars, will.i.am, Sergio Mendes, Natalie Morales, Rita Moreno, Tracy Morgan, Rodrigo Santoro, Jim Conroy.
This year there have been a number of sequels, but while most of them have been fairly lazy and uninspired, a couple have been as good as if not better then the original. Which is why it is a little disappointing to report that this sequel to the 2011 animated film Rio is, well, so dull. What should have been a colourful, energetic and vibrant experience becomes somewhat dull, laboured and lacking inspiration. Rio 2 is a bit like an animated feathery version of Meet The Parents as Blu (voiced by Jesse Eisenberg) heads back to the Amazon jungle with his missus Jewel (voiced by Oscar winner Anne Hathaway) and their three precocious kids in tow.
Blu has been raised in the safety of civilization by Linda and Tulio (voiced by Leslie Mann and Rodrigo Santoro), a couple of eco-warriors and environmentalists who rescued the only surviving rare blue macaw, thought to have been an extinct species. They have headed off into the wilds of the Amazon jungle for their honeymoon, but cannot ignore the intriguing call of the wild when they stumble upon the possible existence of a colony of blue macaws. They embark on a chase to prove the existence of this rare species in the hopes of preventing a massive logging operation that is decimating large areas of the rainforest.
Blu and his family fly south to join Linda and Tulio, and have some adventures of their own when Jewel meets her father Eduardo (voiced by Andy Garcia), who is instantly disapproving of the nerdy Blu. Blu finds himself well and truly outside his comfort zone as he tries hard to ingratiate himself into the family, while Jewel seems to thrive in the wild.
The environmental themes come across quite strongly, and there are also positive messages about the importance of family that will also resonate strongly. But the film is a little uneven and patchy, probably due to the input of five writers whose tone and ideas don’t always seem to mesh satisfactorily. The writers include director Carlos Saldanha (who also directed the first Rio), the late Don Rhymer (who worked on the original, as well as writing films like the three Big Momma’s House films), Jenny Bicks (whose credits include female centric tv series like The Big C and Sex And The City, etc), Yoni Brenner (Ice Age: Dawn Of The Dinosaurs, etc) and first time screenwriter Carlos Kotkin. There are several subplots that make for a busy film, but there are times when characters disappear for lengthy periods, only to reappear later.
Nonetheless there is some great CGI animation here, and, like most cartoons today, the film has been shot in 3D, although the process is not really used all that effectively. The film is also slowed down by some uninspired and insipid musical numbers that add little to the material beyond padding out the running time. The dreary songs also hark back to some of the lesser Disney animated films of the 60s, and there is one Busby Berkley-like sequence that adds little. The attempts at humour are forced and fall flat, and many of the characters here are merely annoying.
However, there is a great vocal cast to bring the characters to life, with most of the original cast returning. Eisenberg is endearing as the awkward and nerdy Blu, and he brings his usual nervous mannerisms to his reading of the role. Hathaway is good as the no-nonsense and loyal Jewel, who is happy to be reunited with her long lost family. Jemaine Clement (from Flight Of The Conchords, etc) reprises his role as Nigel, the psycho cockatoo out for revenge against Blu, and his manic character is one of the best things about this fairly bland feature. George Lopez also returns as Raphael, the hapless bulldog, but he is given little to do this time around.
New additions to the franchise include Garcia, who is good as the gruff and distrusting Eduardo, who is disapproving of Blu, and his character closely resembles Robert De Niro’s suspicious father figure from the Meet The Parents series and Miguel Ferrer, who is one dimensional as the nasty head of the logging company. Rita Moreno is waste as Jewel’s mother, while Bruno Mars has fun as Roberto, who is a rival for Jewel’s affections. And Kristin Chenowith also provides some great moments as Gabi, a poisonous tree frog in love with Nigel. The heavyweight cast also comprises of Jamie Foxx, Tracy Morgan (from 30 Rock, etc), will.i.am, Sergio Mendes, Jake T Austin.
Brazil is the centre of attention at the moment what with the World Cup and the forthcoming Olympics, but even the frustrating nil-all draws and the precious overacting by some of these highly overpaid sports stars have more emotion, genuine drama, humour and entertainment value than this disappointing and unnecessary sequel. Of all the animated films on release during the school holidays, the far superior How To Train Your Dragon 2 is the best option.