'Rio': A rare bird that justifies the 3-D process
A movie review of "Rio," an animated tale about two rare birds trying to escape smugglers. Jesse Eisenberg and Anne Hathaway voice the leads.
Special to The Seattle Times
'Rio,' with the voices of Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway, Leslie Mann, Jamie Foxx, will.i.am, George Lopez, Tracy Morgan. Directed by Carlos Saldanha, from a screenplay by Don Rhymer, based on a story by Saldanha. 96 minutes. Rated PG for mild humor. Several theaters.
The animated feature-length "Rio" is preceded, as in days of movies old, by a short cartoon. This one is built around a typically geologic misadventure involving the hapless Scrat, the prehistoric squirrel-thing, and his elusive acorn from the "Ice Age" features.
It's clever and funny, and a nice reminder that "Rio's" bright and engaging Brazilian co-writer and director, Carlos Saldanha, got a lot of things right directing the "Ice Age" trilogy. As with those films, "Rio" is strong on relationships, visually novel, full of fresh ideas and featuring a few vocal actors you might not have expected to be part of the fun.
Largely set in Saldanha's native Rio de Janeiro, the tale begins cheerfully with colorful tropical birds singing a tune in the wilds. Things abruptly darken when the big-beaked innocents are all caught by smugglers and end up on a truck heading north.
A road bump in a small Minnesota town frees a rare macaw that is then raised by the kind but bookish Linda (Leslie Mann) and named Blu ("The Social Network's" Jesse Eisenberg, a perfect choice for the cerebral, anxious hero).
Along comes a Brazilian ornithologist who persuades Linda to return Blu to Rio, where he can reproduce with Jewel (a sassy Anne Hathaway), another endangered macaw. There, smugglers get into the action again, and the chase is on to release Blu, Jewel and other birds with some help from Linda and a host of feathered friends.
Among the latter are characters delightfully voiced by George Lopez, Jamie Foxx and will.i.am, while Tracy Morgan turns up as a slobbering bulldog named Luiz. Saldanha doesn't miss an opportunity to bring in familiar talents, even briefly: Wanda Sykes and Jane Lynch appear early as a pair of taunting voices, while a little more buried in the mix are Judah Friedlander (of "30 Rock") and Tom Wilson ("Back to the Future").
"Rio" is a rare family film that actually justifies the 3-D process. Saldanha explores such dense environments as rain forests and the city of Rio itself, including scenes set during Brazil's crowded Carnival season. Even more mundane sequences, set in storage rooms or mechanic shops, look interesting in 3-D. Saldanha clearly knows what he's doing.
Tom Keogh: firstname.lastname@example.org
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