Rio bursts onto the big screen in a dance of color and music. Set in beautiful Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the setting suggests the carefree life of tropical paradise. That is, until money hungry exotic bird smugglers enter the scene and upset the local avian life. Capturing many species, the bad guys cast a pall on the film’s cheerfulness. A tiny Blue Macaw hatchling is among those captured. He is so young that he has not even learned yet how to fly. Through apparent providence, his holding crate falls out of the delivery truck in Minnesota. A young girl finds him, cares for him, and raises him. Her name is Linda (Leslie Mann). His name is Blu (Jesse Eisenberg).
It is a carefree life Blu enjoys with Linda for 15 years. They have a routine, including a complex fistbump ending in a mock explosion of their feathers and fingers, respectively. But that routine is upset when a bird caretaker from Brazil enters their lives, explaining to Linda that Blu is the last remaining male Blue Macaw in the world. Although she objects at first, Linda quickly realizes the importance of this revelation and agrees to bring Blu to Brazil to mate with a female of the species. She is a beauty in Blu’s eyes. Her name is Jewel (Anne Hathaway). She also is wild, and she can fly, and she can whoop the beak off of Blu if he tries anything funny, like propagating the species or some such nonsense. She is far more interested in breaking out of her cage. Although he is smitten, he ultimately is far more interested in going back to the safety of his cage at home, and the care of his beloved Linda.
What’s a macaw to do?
You will have to watch the movie to find out, and I do think that most people will enjoy it well enough to say it was worth their while. A rated G film, Rio caters to children and their parents simultaneously. There is a strong component of physical humor throughout interwoven with witticisms which adults would appreciate. The storyline itself is mostly predictable, and it’s ending lends a fairytale flavor in which everyone lives happily ever after, except for the smugglers of course. I encourage parental discretion with regard to the primary plotline of the film, which is to save the Blue Macaw species through attempting to mate Blu and Jewel. Rather than a warning, my intent is to point out an opportunity for parents to take the lead in teaching their children, something far too few parents do on this topic.
The character voicing is marvelous. Good characters, evil characters all. I was most impressed by this dimension of the film.
The renderings of Rio de Janeiro are realistic and all the more pleasing to view as a result. Clearly, care is taken to portray the city set in the world’s largest urban forest in painstaking fashion. Parents could use this as an opportunity to teach their children the culture, geography, biology, and history of the region, using the movie for comparative touchpoints in accessing resources in print and on the web to fulfill their curiosity.
For the most part I am pleased with Rio. I wish more animated films were family friendly. It seems to make business sense, given the overwhelming success of G rated animated films which score big at the box office. So, send a message to movie makers. Support Rio, laugh for awhile, and rest assured that there shouldn’t be any reason to cover the eyes and ears of your children. Although you might want to watch out for the flying slobber–oh, I better not give that part away.