DIRECTOR: Carlos Saldanha
VOICE CAST: Anne Hathaway, Jessie Eisenberg, Will.I.Am, Andy Garcia, Bruno Mars, Kristen Chenoweth, Jemaine Celement, Jamie Foxx, Will.I.Am, George Lopez, Tracy Morgan, Rodrigo Santoro, Leslie Mann
RUNNING TIME: 101 minutes
RATING: 3 stars (out of 5)
BRIGHT and cheerful, Rio 2 is very much like the first film, with even more characters and musical numbers.
Visually the film is overstuffed – there is always something happening in every frame, with tons of bright primary colours and so much stuff you start missing the tiny details – but it never becomes magical the way the chameleon’s faceted eye took your breath away in Rango. Still, the plethora of vibrant visuals distract from the patchy scripting.
Mostly it is exuberant and respectful of nature and contains a take on I Will Survive and some soccer to keep you going.
Blu (voiced by Eisenberg) and Jewel (Hathaway), the blue macaws from the first film are back, this time with a family. They go looking for conservationist Tulio (Santoro) and his now wife Linda (Mann) who are rooting around the middle of the Amazon jungle, looking for more blue macaws.
Scared that her offspring are too used to the human life, Jewel persuades Blu to expose the little ones to life in the jungle, which is how he meets his father-in-law Eduardo (Garcia).
The story is pretty much anthropomorphised birds doing a classic Disney story – a blended family getting exposed to a little bit of something from mommy’s background when they have only been used to dad’s.
Throw in a huge dollop of nature conservation in the form of illegal loggers chopping down trees as well as talking about endangered species plus an element of South American Idols into the mix, complete with auditions and plenty of showstopper numbers. And capoeira turtles.
Little ball of energy, yellow canary Nico (Foxx), his partner, cardinal Pedro (Will.I.Am), the larger than life toucan Rafael (Lopez) and Luiz (Morgan) the drooling bulldog are all back, as is Nigel (Clement).
If you thought Nigel the almost featherless cockatoo was weird in the first movie, now he is just downright questionable. And that frog Gabi (Chenoweth). Erm. Ja. Well. Shades of King Julian and the bear in Madagascar 3.
See, there is a poisonous dart frog that takes a shine to Nigel and not only is the hot pink frog channelling Jane Krakow as crazy Ally McBeal secretary, but Gabi is voiced by the pint-sized Broadway powerhouse, Kristen Chenoweth. The voice cast all get a chance to sing, but this frog is something else – very passionate and about ready to cry and laugh at the same time, all the time.
Gabi is the edgiest thing about the film, which for the most part is very much smoothed out satire, mostly broad visual pratfalls and breaking out into song whenever the storyline falters. So there’s lots of singing.
This time around Milton Nasscimento is the big influence on the soundtrack, which is now less carnival Rio and more broadly Brazil, drawing on more than just the classic Rio de Janeiro rhythms and artists.
The relationship between lonely human Linda and Blu (not realising he’s a bird) was touching in the first film, but now it is all about the birds interacting in a way we expect humans should behave.
If you liked Rio, you will like this.