I love a good marketing campaign, whether it stems from a truly clever idea or creative cross-promotion. Too often, however, the film (or other product, if we want to speak generally) does not live up to the work executed to promote it. So when Rio teamed up with iPhone app uber-hit “Angry Birds”, 20th Century Fox hit marketing gold. But what about the film itself? My review after the jump.
Rio is your basic “sheltered-existence man-child released into the real world and learning how to fend” story. Nothing fancy story-wise, here; Rio plays the genre to a T. Such films can take one of two courses: either the protagonist is an absolute elitist prick, or he/she is completely naïve, well-intentioned without the tools to function properly. Rio falls into the latter sub-category. Rio’s hero, Blu, is perfectly voiced by Jesse Eisenberg, who has cornered the market on awkward characters out of their elements.
The story in short: Blu, the last male of his species, lives in Minnesota with owner Linda (Leslie Mann). One day Brazilian ornithologist Tulio (Rodrigo Santoro) enters Linda’s bookstore and begs her to take Blu to Rio to mate with Jewel (Anne Hathaway), the last female of Blu’s species. Unlike Blu, Jewel grew up in the wild, and she has no immediate interest in him; Blu can’t even fly. A few bumbling bird-nappers later and Blue and Jewel are loose in Rio, chained together. The more time the two birds spend together, the more they fall for each other, even as they must foil the bird smuggling ring and Blu tries to find his way back to Linda.
As it turns out, Rio is not half bad. Not great mind you—the hackneyed story prevents that—but decently entertaining, with a handful of laugh-out-loud lines. It didn’t hurt that I was watching it with my not-yet two-year-old daughter, to whom all of the birds were magical, but that having been said, the animation is very good, particularly the birds, the aerial views of Rio and the flying sequences.
The voice cast (which also includes Jamie Foxx, will.i.am, Jane Lynch and Wanda Sykes) does a fine job, particularly the aforementioned Eisenberg (of whom I am admittedly a big fan). The musical numbers are serviceable and sometimes visually impressive, but overall not particularly memorable.
Special features are extremely disappointing on this 3-disc (Blu-ray, DVD, digital copy) set. There are the de facto standards—one deleted scene, the theatrical trailer, music videos—along with a handful of uninteresting and mechanically put-together featurettes (“Saving the Species: One Voice at a Time”, “The Making of Hot Wings”, “Boom-Boom Tish-Tish: The Sounds of Rio”, and “The Real Rio”). The interactive “Explore the World of Rio” map with text, pictures and video is somewhat entertaining and informative, but the sheer amount of navigation necessary to explore it all weighs down its usage. Kiddies will enjoy the “Carnival Dance-O-Rama” (dance along with the characters) and the create-your-own Postcards from Rio features, but they aren’t of much interest for adults.
In summation, Rio is a great movie for kids and decently entertaining for adults—just don’t expect to be wowed by the story.