More colorful than an Asian Paints shade card, Rio will make you want to go straight to your travel agent and buy a flight ticket to the throbbing Brazilian city. This new animation film from the makers of Ice Age is a vibrant, feel-good adventure that follows a formulaic and familiar path, but it’s made with such affection, and voiced so charmingly that it’s hard not to enjoy.
After his Oscar-nominated performance as the nerdish founder of Facebook in The Social Network, Jesse Eisenberg gets pigeonholed (pun unintended) as the voice of nerd-bird Blu. Snatched out of the trees when he was little, and taken to America where he ends up being raised by singleton bookshop-owner Linda (voiced by Leslie Mann), Blu is a happily domesticated macaw who doesn’t think it’s odd that he never learned to fly. "This is the life," he says as he dips his beak into his afternoon cup of hot chocolate and marshmallows.
When a bird rescuer persuades Linda to bring Blu to Rio de Janiero to breed with the only other remaining blue macaw, Jewel (voiced by Anne Hathaway), sparks don’t exactly fly between the birds. Before they know it, however, Blu and Jewel are stolen by bird-smugglers, and their escape plan hampered by the fact that they’re chained together.
Pleasant but by-the-numbers, this lightweight family entertainer borrows plot points from a handful of previous animation hits like Happy Feet, Up and Toy Story 3. What’s missing in terms of an inspired storyline, however, is made up for in rich visuals that practically come alive in 3D. Stunning aerial shots of the city, and that colorful depiction of the carnival are two easy highlights.
But the real strength of "Rio" lies in its remarkable voice talent, and the quirky, comical characters that populate its scenes. Jesse Eisenberg gives Blu a neurotic edge, bequeathing the bird with his trademark fast-talking style that works brilliantly. The other star voice belongs to Jemaine Clement who’s terrific as nasty bird Nigel who, in one of the film’s best scenes, intimidates a troupe of monkeys into searching for the escaped birds. Nigel gets some of the film’s best-written lines, and is a worthy nemesis to the parrot protagonists.
There may be little that’s new about the film’s fish-out-of-water theme, but its colorful palette and endearing characters make it an adventure you don’t want to miss. I’m going with three out of five for Rio. Much fun for kids and adults alike!