This seems like cheating on evolution …

Theatrical Release Date: 04/15/2011
Director: Carlos Saldanha
Featuring the Voices of: Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway, Leslie Mann, Jermaine Clement, Jamie Foxx,, Tracy Morgan, Rodrigo Santoro, Wanda Sykes, Jane Lynch
Rated: PG for mild off color humor.
Runtime: 1 hour, 36 minutes


Mind if I cut in?

If there’s one thing I hope kids take away from watching the bright and colorful animated film, “Rio”, it’s that they should experience Carnival. It’s full of pretty colors, happy people and autotuned samba music – hold on … what was that? … it’s also full of scandalously underdressed women (not that there’s anything wrong with that), drunken fools, and enough debauchery to make Ron Jeremy blush? Huh, that’s not what I got from the film.

Of course, being a kid’s film, you wouldn’t want to expose them to such things but the entire story feels so sanitized and calculated that it was hard to find the heart. They shoehorn 4 main songs performed by the characters into the soundtrack, making it a half-hearted attempt at a musical. The human characters are cliché and annoying, with no real purpose but to serve as the plot device to bring the various animals together.

And then there’s the voice cast … which … well … it’s sort of all over the place. The main character of Blu is done by Jesse Eisenberg; though since he can’t emote while actually on screen, I have no idea why they thought he could via an animated character. The love interest is handled by Anne Hathaway, who does nothing special with it (not that the script was of help to anyone). George Lopez gets to put his accented spin on a Toucan … umm … thanks? Jamie Foxx and (it’s “William”, dude) are brought in more for their contribution to the soundtrack than any particular spark of fun in their voices.

Really, the only reasons I didn’t start daydreaming or praying or something in order to pass the time until the credits rolled were Jermaine Clement as a villainous cockatoo and a small role for Tracey Morgan as a slobbering bulldog. The pair of them are the only ones to bring any energy or life to their characters, whereas with nearly everyone else, it felt a little like a script table read.

The best sequence really has nothing to do with the main characters, as Clement enlists a gang of monkeys to help him find the birds. The pick-pocketing monkeys eventually get into a rumble with a group of birds and it’s the most fun to be found in the story. Morgan’s slightly insane bulldog, all dressed up for Carnival, runs a close second in the fun factor and these elements help to lift the film out of the hum drum progression it otherwise follows.

The 3D was fair to middling, so at least if you’re being pestered to spend the extra few bucks, it won’t be a complete waste. And the animation itself is fairly well done, plenty of bright colors to keep the wee ones interested. It felt a little like a cheat that a segment of the opening song is reused for the ending, but maybe the filmmakers were going for some kind of circular quality … and really, I was just happy that the ending had arrived.

Despite all that negativity, I’m feeling generous and giving “Rio” a 2.5 out of 5 because it will keep the kids distracted. At the end of the day, if a kids film entertains the kids, that’s an hour and half of peace for the parents of the world. But this won’t be ending up in my DVD collection nor do I care when it will hit the free cable movie channels either. If you don’t have a youngin’ dragging you into the theater, save your money.

2.5 out of 53D Maybe