Sunday, April 17, 2011

Movie Review: Rio

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Samba....samba...samba lessons, see samba dancing....samba dancing. Oh sorry, didn't see you sitting there. I'm flipping through the yellow pages looking for places where I can learn to do the samba. After watching Rio, I'm very tempted to learn how to shake my own tail feathers just like an animated small blue macaw in Rio de Janeiro rain forest. He too was overcome by the infectious beat of the bossa nova and shook his tail feathers. In fact he shook them so much the new born or would that be new hatchling fell out of his tree only to be captured by exotic bird poachers and shipped to a frozen Moose Lake, Minnesota. The shivering youngling is befriended by a young Linda. So there is the set up for our movie. They start off strong with song, sounds, music, rhythms, syncopation, motions and colors spellbind the viewers. I saw the movie in 2D but it was very obvious how they were using the 3D in the opening sequence.

Rio Movie Poster
Oh wait...I forgot. Before Rio started, we had a visit from your friendly neighborhood Scrat. The sabre-toothed squirrel has been part of each of the Ice Age movies. Blue Sky Studios produced both the Ice Age series as well as Rio. In this go around Scrat will not only go to the ends of the earth to save his beloved acorn, but he will go to the middle of it as well! You can't but help laugh when the Scrat is up on the screen!

Time passes and about 15 years later we meet up with a grown up Blu (Jesse Eisenberg) and Linda (Leslie Mann). He's become a domesticate house pet without a care who never learned to fly. He didn't have to. His world is all upset when he ends up traveling back to Rio de Janeiro in order to meet up the last female blue macaw. Boy meets girl in order to save a species from extinction. But, they say things happen in cycles. He is once again kidnapped along with his new "friend" Jewel (Anne Hathaway). Can Blu overcome his domestication and fly the coop in order to rescue Jewel and return to his home in the rain forest or Moose Lake?

The movie is very catchy with the music and the animation. Where it fails is with the story line within the 96 minutes running time. There are somethings that just overwhelm the story. Instead of one side kick, there end up being three, well actually four but two come as a set. The first is Rafael, a rain forest toucan (George Lopez) who acts as the guide to help Blu realize that flying is in his DNA. Then are the two urban birds, Nico and Pedro (Jamie Foxx and the Black Eyed Peas who provide musical interludes and date and love making advice. Lastly is the bull dog Luiz (Tracy Morgan) who's biggest dream seems to be to dress up like Carmen Miranda and dance in the carnival parade while trying to keep drool off of his outfit. For you kids who don't know, Carmen Miranda appeared in the 1943 movie The Gang's All Here which then made the fruit headdress popular and a stock item when describing a samba beat or talking about Chiquita bananas. Director Carlos Saldanha tried to pack a lot of action into the time allotment and didn't allow enough slower times between skirmishes.

3D computer animation has come a long way with the detail and textures that is now capable of being rendered especially when it comes to hair, fur and feathers. What I found interesting is in many places the lack textures. The animal characters were highly meticulously designed. But at times there were items like clothes or walls or cloth that were left with lots of color and parts, but not the surface gains and qualities.

The writers did leave out a heavy environmental message. They didn't rant about the raizing of the rain forest or poaching of animals into extinction. But they did make jokes of men (and dogs) dressing up for carnival earning the movie a PG rating for mild off color (not referring the the vibrant reds, blues, greens and yellows found in a color wheel and the birds feathers) humor. Also when you think about it, they are trying to get a male and female blue macaw together in order to perpetuate the species. The one line that I thought would have been used but didn't is when under the standard "boy looses girl" segment of the plot she or he in anger blurts out the "I wouldn't go with you if you were the last person" or in this case "bird on the face of the earth!" and they go storming away from each other yelling "FINE!" So it wasn't totally predictable!

With the humor, colors, animals, love story, music and the travelogue to Rio de Janeiro and Carnival, there is something everyone could find to enjoy in Rio.

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