Young Luke: That was great! Big! Loud!
Old Luke: Uh huh. That’s a sequel for you. Rio 2 brings back the original’s quirky and engaging ensemble for a new round of flamboyant shenanigans.
Young Luke: I like Blu. He’s funny, just like in the first one.
Old Luke: Jesse Eisenberg as the macaw parrot? Yeah his neurotic nerdiness is perfect for the character. Fastidious, in love with modern conveniences and making pancakes. He adores civilized living, our Blu.
Young Luke: Just the same as Rio!
Old Luke: Yep. Director George Saldanha’s original cast hasn’t changed much from the original formula. Blu can fly now, but he remains uncomfortable in his feathery skin, and his partner macaw Jewel (Anne Hathaway) still longs for the freedom of the jungle air.
Young Luke: And that Nigel is as evil as ever.
Old Luke: Yeah Jemaine Clement is back as the dastardly cockatoo that has it in for Blu, especially since Blu destroyed his life. Nigel’s pretty great, strutting with scene-stealing venom and an ego more inflated than his puffed up chest.
Young Luke: But there’s lots of new stuff too!
Old Luke: So after the jump?
Young Luke: Yeah! One…
Old Luke: Two…
Young Luke: They’ve got babies!
Old Luke: Blu and Jewel have gotten themselves a cute little family of three incorrigible kid parrots, it’s true.
Young Luke: The kids are pretty fun. And the music and dancing is awesome.
Old Luke: Are awesome. The animation really excels during the big production numbers. Saldanha and his team do a fantastic job taking advantage of 3-D to stage some fluorescent Busby Berkeley flourishes that really pop. The music’s a little forgettable, but each set-piece hums with just the right vibe for what they’re trying to do, whether it’s the opening Rio dance-plosion or Nigel’s sinister disco monologue “I Will Survive” (one for the adults for sure).
Young Luke: Busby Berkeley?
Old Luke: A really old black-and-white musical director. Take my word for it.
Young Luke: You sound like you didn’t like it.
Old Luke: I dunno. Rio 2 is a remarkably well-assembled machine, a video game musical feast jammed with colours and plots and characters galore. There’s almost way too much happening for the film’s scant ninety-minute run-time.
Young Luke: But all that stuff is cool! The way Blu and Jewel and the whole gang take off to the Amazon and run into Jewel’s father Eduardo (Andy Garcia) and her lost tribe of Macaws?
Old Luke: That stuff’s funny, sure, and Andy Garcia’s an amusing if perfunctory new foil for Blu’s effete city ways. It’s Meet the Parents for jungle birds, but it works alright.
Young Luke: And Bruno Mars as Jewel’s old flame Roberto is some serious competition for Blu and his fanny-pack.
Old Luke: You know Bruno Mars?
Young Luke: Everybody knows Bruno Mars!
Old Luke: Okay. But the evil loggers that are threatening the Macaw’s final hidden sanctuary? And kidnap Blu’s owner/companion Linda (Leslie Mann) and her now-husband the ornithologist Tulio (Rodrigo Santoro) after they explore the jungle in search of more macaws? And the rivalry between the blue Spix macaws and the Scarlet macaws, vying for control of their treetop sanctuary? And Nigel’s revenge plot, tracking down Blu and infiltrating the American Idol-like contest the canary Nico (Jamie Foxx) and the cardinal Pedro (Will.I.Am) are holding to find new talent for the big Carnival celebrations coming up back in Rio? Not to mention Nigel’s own obsessed love interest, the hilariously noxious poisonous frog Gabi (Kristen Chenoweth).
Young Luke: Okay okay! When you put it like that, jeeze, I guess it is a lot. But c’mon, the frog is amazing.
Old Luke: I know! Kristen Chenoweth kills it singing about her doomed desire for Nigel in “Poisonous Love”. But it’s so overloaded. The Blue Sky writers and animators juggle the plots expertly but there’s no time for anything to breathe.
Young Luke: I’m a kid! I’ve got A.D.D.! I’ll watch this movie 500 times on Netflix or DVD or whatever as our folks try to cook a dinner I might actually eat.
Old Luke: Fair point. But the preciousness of the environmental parable while devoting a major sequence to a soccer contest between the macaw factions, in anticipation of the Brazilian tourist frenzy that will be the World Cup in Rio this summer, not to mention the handy travelogue of Brazilian hot spots as Blu gets lost trying to follow his GPS across the country? And don’t get me started on the ludicrous wish fulfillment fantasy soaring through this and Avatar and so many films, that nature will simply rise up and beat us back from our planet abusing ways and we all live happily ever after.
Young Luke: Whoa chill. You’re turning purple.
Old Luke: Okay. Sorry. I got carried away.
Young Luke: It is just a kids’ movie…
Old Luke: A kids’ movie that’ll make the adults a whole lot of green. Rio made $500 million worldwide during its run.
Young Luke: That’s a lot of allowances.
Old Luke: You got that right, kiddo.
Young Luke: I give it all the thumbs up! You?
Old Luke: You win. I’ll give it a knowing smile. Rio 2 might be an overstuffed parrot, but it sure moves. I bet it gets a lot of crackers.
Rio 2 opens all over today, Friday, April 11th. It had its Canadian premiere as part of the TIFF Kids Festival on April 10th. The Kids Festival runs until April 21st. Check out all the great family films showing at the TIFF Bell Lightbox here.