Total Pageviews

Friday, April 22, 2011

Rio (Release Date: 4-15-2011)

        In the beginning, there was Pixar. Releasing Toy Story way back in 1996, the studio giant foresaw a massive shift towards computer animation, with most studios needing a while to catch up. The second collective to properly brand themselves was Dreamworks, a company who crafted a much different type of feature than Pixar, but whose brand was equally recognizable. The two have essentially battled it out for box office superiority ever since, but they would both be wise to look over their shoulder. Having knocked both of their first two features out of the box office park (Despicable Me and Hop), Illumination Entertainment, working with Universal, looks to be a real player. But the true unsung hero is Blue Sky Animation (Fox), whose Ice Age series has been an enormous success world wide, all while Robots and Horton Hears a Who! were no money-making slouches themselves. And here they are again with Rio, the studio's first non-Ice Age movie since the 3D take-over in kid-pics.

        Blu is a nervous, muttering blue macaw voiced by Jesse Eisenberg (go figure!?!). After being captured as a little hatchling by poachers in what is most assuredly the most adorable/heartbreaking animated scene involving a small, tropical bird ever created, Blu ends up in the care of Linda (Leslie Mann). She raises him, and the two become constant companions. This is until bird researcher Túlio (Rodrigo Santoro) shows up with some striking news: Blu is the last male of his kind, and if the species is to survive, he and Linda have to go to Rio de Janeiro, where the last known female (Anne Hathaway) is being held. But from the moment that the two first meet, nothing goes as planned, and soon an adventure is afoot in the streets of the city.

        While often sticking to the familiar beats of today's kid movies, Rio does set itself apart by including a few musical numbers, a la 90's Disney. But unlike your average animated musical, all of the tunes have a little bit of Latin rhythm thrown in to spice things up. The movie opens with its most authentic tune, but soon introduces birds voiced by Jamie Foxx and, and it's all only undertones from there. I like the effort to introduce different musical flavors, but it's a bit vexing to watch them so clearly only go half the way with it. What the movie does commit to, however, is its vibrant color scheme, which shies away from over-stylization because it wisely realizes that the forests and streets of Rio de Janeiro are eye-candy enough. I would struggle to refer to the animation particularly inspired, as voices sometimes feel strangely disconnected from their on-screen counter-parts, but the bright hues of the birds and the city make the thing ever-pleasant to behold.

        The voice actors are fine; Eisenberg and Hathaway pretty much do what you would have expected them to do, Jemaine Clement offers a fairly inspired turn, but no one really stands out too much one way or the other. The same could be said for... well... just about everything in Rio. The story is familiar but watchable enough, the tunes don't grate, and the images occasionally earn a smile. It's unoffensive cinema at its most unoffensive, predictable as your order at your favorite restaurant, and for the most part, it passes its hour-and-forty-minutes in a nice, polite manner. But even as Rio must be called something of a modest success, you have to wonder why Blue Sky still isn't trying to set themselves apart after all of these years. If talking-animal, computer-animated kids-pics are your thing, there's no reason to shy away from Rio. You just might not remember it all that well tomorrow morning.

Grade: B-

No comments:

Post a Comment