Rio 2 (2014) / Animation-Comedy

MPAA Rated: G, but contains some mild action and rude humor
Running Time: 101 min.

Cast (voices): Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway, Leslie Mann, Rodrigo Santoro, Andy Garcia,, Jamie Foxx, George Lopez, Tracy Morgan, Jemaine Clement, Kristin Chenoweth, Bruno Mars, Jake T. Austin, Miguel Ferrer, Janelle Monae
Small role (voices): Sergio Mendes, Carlos Saldanha
Director: Carlos Saldanha
Screenplay: Don Rhymer, Carlos Kotkin, Jenny Bicks, Yoni Brenner

Review published April 12, 2014

In Rio 2, rare Spix's macaws named Blu (Eisenberg, Now You See Me)  and Jewel (Hathaway, Les Miserables) are together in a loving relationship, tending to their three precocious baby birds. Their life takes an unexpected turn when it is discovered that a whole family of blue macaws has been discovered in the Amazonian rain forest, making them not the last of their species as had been originally thought, so they fly out to meet their kind. Unfortunately for them, this part of the forest is slated for being chopped down in a logging operation, and the birds' human friends, newlywed couple Linda (Mann, The Bling Ring) and Tulio (Santoro, 300: Rise of an Empire), are out to make sure the endangered species are protected.

Despite the return of all of the voice actors and director, the charm of the original Rio is largely absent for this superfluous sequel. The animation is still stunning, the musical interludes are fun and catchy, and there are lots of cute character touches here and there that might make for some funny comic relief moments. Alas, what might make for funny asides are the film's main thrust, as the screewnwriters begrudgingly have a plot that merely services the protagonists keeping the empty momentum going by continuously meeting new characters and creatures to interact with.

Rio 2 won't go down as the kind of superior animated sequels that Toy Story 2 and Shrek 2 manage to be. It's more along the lines of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, save for admittedly catchy music. As with other animated sequels of its ilk, its need to retain nearly every character from the first film, as well as introduce a slew of others, only makes for an increase in story contrivance in order to shoehorn them all in, as well as increase the amount of distraction from the main plot in order to ensure that each character beat is explored.

New characters include a new 'Romeo' named Roberto, voiced by Bruno Mars (Honeymoon in Vegas), who gets to croon in one song, a plethora of parrots, and a loggers who are seeking an end to the rain forest for profit. The worst of them is the stereotypical disapproving father, the human-hating Eduardo (Garcia, At Middleton), aka 'Pop Pop' (he annoyingly repeats his nickname over and over during any songs for no apparent reason), who castrates Blu at every turn much in the same manner as De Niro in Meet the Parents. Then there's an aardvark and a toxic tree frog named Gabi (voiced by Kristin Chenoweth, Running with Scissors), who is infatuated with the maladjusted, now-flightless cockatoo, Nigel, that are cute for kids but serve little use to the overall story.

None of the new characters (and there are way too many introduced) add much to the fun, while the ones we've already come to know seem like annoying versions of their former selves, particularly Blu, who comes off as nebbish and cloying, and now sports a fanny pack for reasons that only exist for Pop Pop to look disapprovingly toward. Meanwhile, Jewel is relegated to either being annoyed with Blu for one reason or another, or just saying, "Awwwwww!", whenever he manages to do something thoughtful.  Tulio, a caring, brilliant scientist in the first film, now is just a clumsy nerd, while Linda barely has a personality at all except as necessitated in the plot.

The ending of the film tries to supplant story with a half-hearted eco message that we shouldn't destroy the habitats of all of these protected animals for greed, but it feels like an afterthought, adding little more than noise and a lot of cartoonish violence that feels out of place in a modern-day G-rated feature.  Director Saldanha (Ice Age) doesn't bother to keep it all together, feeling like most people enjoyed the bells and whistles of the first film, and thus he's determined to not let an interesting story stand in the way of cute character moments and saccharine choreographed song-and-dance numbers. 

Qwipster's rating:

2014 Vince Leo