In Rio 2, animated denizens of the rain-forest band together against the rapacious bulldozers of humans. I kind of liked this movie better when it was called Ferngully.
Add a copious dose of Meet the Parents, and you’ve got a busy sequel to Rio that doesn’t even take place in Rio (save for the opening minutes when director Carlos Saldanha washes the world’s greatest natural harbour with pastels, and even makes the hellish favelas look like desirable places to live).
Rio 2 does, however, retain the element that made it ideal for the youngest of children, non-stop patter, musical dance numbers with tropical birds and other animals, and endless slapstick.
And that’s a consideration these days, when movies spend more time catering to parents than to their single-digit target audience. (Though I found myself laughing at some of the sight gags, including a rapping sloth and a pair of turtles whose slow-motion move-busting evokes Asian classical dance).
As Rio 2 opens, we find Blue (Jesse Eisenberg) and Jewel (Anne Hathaway) – ostensibly the last blue macaws of their kind – settled down in the title city with their trio of chicks (Amandla Stenberg, Rachel Crow, and Pierce Gagnon). The Minnesota-raised Blue is happiest in a human city, while Jewel secretly misses the jungle. The latter dream re-awakens when they see their human friends Linda and Tulio (Leslie Mann and Rodrigo Santoro) on the news, announcing the discovery of a flock of blue macaws, 2,000 miles up the Amazon.
In the words of their Toucan buddy Raphael (George Lopez), “happy wife, happy life.” So off Blue travels, with the family and a GPS in tow, to meet their destiny. Also along, for the flimsiest of reasons, are Raphael, hip-hoppin’ cardinal Pedro (will.i.am) and the canary Nico (Jamie Foxx) for short-attention-span comedy relief.
Did I mention Meet the Parents? Blue meets Jewel’s dad Eduardo (Andy Garcia), who even sports a military-style haircut like Robert De Niro in that movie. Eduardo considers his new “son-in-law” soft and citified. There’s even an alpha male he’d rather have fathered his grandkids, Roberto (Bruno Mars, who, yes, gets to sing).
You need to use both hands to count the conflicts in this movie and the characters attached to them. They also include the evil cockatoo Nigel (Jemaine Clement) and his insane poisonous frog girlfriend Gabi (Kristin Chenoweth, who, yes, gets to sing – a touching showstopper called Poisonous Love), and a rapacious human forester.
(A thought: it seems every animal in the rain forest can talk except for monkeys. What’s up with that?)
What Rio 2 is missing is the original’s singular focus. Going home is a powerful narrative that fueled that movie.
This one is about, um, protecting the home, finding ways to feel at home, learning to respect your spouse, saving the planet, learning to trust (some) humans. Take your pick.