Aiy Dios Rio! You could have been so good! Great, even! Alas. For whatever reason, you settled for being mediocre, at times dull, and that most awful of things any film can be: instantly forgettable. It’s not that you couldn’t have been sublimely entertaining. In fact, you should have been, given your roster of big name talent and the fact that you are the latest animated romp from the team that brought us Ice Age (an entertaining if generally overrated piece of animation). So, what went wrong? Well…
First off, there is so much plot and story and climax and denouement in the film that you feel at times like you are watching several films at once: the film doesn’t resolve earlier plot points and then proceeds to introduce new ones, then flashes back to the old ones you’ve long since forgotten, making you feel as though you’re watching a sequel inside the original. Imagine if Harry Potter were retrieving the Goblet of Fire while you’ve only scarcely begun to understand what the Chamber of Secrets is, all the while Hermione and Ron are running back and forth between the two plots without much meaning or purpose. It’s too much and too little at the same time. WRONG!
So, what’s the story about? Basically, an exceedingly rare species of macaw birds (of which there are apparently only two left) is on the verge of extinction. One of the remaining specimens is a male named Blu (voiced by Jesse Eisenberg) who has lived his whole life not in the Amazon, but that backwoods of non-exotic plainness known as Minnesota. A team of wily ornithologists want to preserve the species so Blu is sent down to South America to mate with a female macaw known as Jewel (Anne Hathaway). Once Blu gets to the actual Jungle, he must not only learn how to be a wild bird — and let’s face it, Minnesota isn’t known for turning out wild, bizarre creatures (unless you count Michelle Bachman) – but also how to (gasp!) fall in love! Ah, let the zaniness ensue.
The one stroke of genius by the filmmakers was their decision to cast adorable uber-nerd Jesse Eisenberg as the eponymous hero. Some viewers and critics find his brand of self-effacing and geeky charm a bit put-on. I disagree completely and find him more endearing than can be said. However, even the nerd-next-door charm of Jesse Eisenberg isn’t enough to surmount the very basic hurdles the filmmakers have saddled themselves with in writing a movie that is overly busy and not especially smart. Be forewarned, parents and babysitters: the little ones will like the film well enough (and only well enough) but you might find yourself yawning and staring at your watch throughout the proceedings, which didn’t happen during Toy Story 3 because you were too busy laughing and crying and waxing sentimental.
In the end, Rio is a passable way to spend an afternoon. But once it’s over, and no matter how much you may have wanted to like it after the typically stunning opening sequence, you won’t remember a thing.
Better luck next time.