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Blue Sky Studios’ globally-minded musically driven 3D CG-animated adventure movie Rio brought its aptly named Blue Macaw Blu and his bookish owner Linda (voiced by Jesse Eisenberg and Leslie Mann respectively) from Minnesota to the titular Rio in the infectious 2011 original that enchanted viewers with its high-spirited energy and fast moving storyline which danced at a steady Samba pace.
Unfortunately while it’s as beautifully vibrant as ever in a visually breathtaking opener that once again feels like it's an animated half-pint version of the Carnival classic Black Orpheus, the second film is an undeniably busy, ambitiously overstuffed and disappointingly episodic return to the delightful high-flying world of Rio.
Strategically released to coincide with the World Cup, Rio 2 incorporates a soccer fueled scene that’s – like everything else in the film – ratcheted up a million degrees so that it’s storyboarded less like a regular match and more like a spectacular Harry Potter styled aerial game of Quidditch.
And despite its pro-nature message about preserving the Amazon Rainforest (as well as the endangered birds in another through-line admirably carried over from the first film), far too much gets lost in the shuffle of individually isolated “scenes” in a movie that ultimately lacks the cohesive focus of a well-conceptualized whole.
As Rio 2 begins, we check back in with the paired off lovebirds (Eisenberg and Anne Hathaway) from the original as the couple and their three young flappers leave Rio behind before flying into acquaintances both new and old in the sequel’s dominated Rainforest setting.
Essentially a feathered version of Meet the Parents for the small set, in Rio 2, Hathaway’s Jewel is stunned to discover that the family she’d long thought to have been deceased is alive and well in her old Amazon home.
While indulging in his opportunity to play the Robert De Niro like Parents heavy, voice actor Andy Garcia is clearly having a ball as Jewell's long lost father who takes an immediate dislike and disapproval to Blu by admonishing him as a mere “pet.” However, the biggest surprise is musician Bruno Mars, who steals several scenes in an often screamingly funny role as a childhood friend who still clearly carries a torch for Jewel.
Burning through subplot and supporting characters (including a return of the first film’s fan favorite Jemaine Clement who’s now partnered with Kristin Chenoweth), from its snappy one-liners to obligatory pop songs and brightly colored, firework-fast diversions, Rio 2’s key takeaway about preserving plant and animal life on Earth gets pushed into the periphery.
Sloppily written, the film shortchanges its talented cast and expectant audience alike with a collection of sitcom level scenes edited together with a few eye-opening epic moments (such as the aforementioned opener) buried in between in order to satisfy the shortest of attention spans.
A pleasant enough diversion for your tiniest tots especially given the multiple format combo pack release which boasts a Blu-ray, DVD and digital copy, director Carlos Saldanha’s effort works better than a majority of run of the mill fare like The Nut Job.
And likewise given the studio's dedicated to discovering new topics, techniques, and terrain (even by way of a preexisting template), it is a stronger than average follow-up as far as animated movies go.
Nonetheless there’s still no beating the South American spirit of Blu’s original opus that showed ticket-buyers that outside of the frozen tundra of the impressive Ice Age franchise, Blue Sky has a bright future ahead of them in the sun.
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