dir: Carlos Saldanha
Rio… Brazil… So timely, you’d think, what, with all that World Cup stuff going on. Instead of punishing your kids by making them sit through this, why not wake them up in the middle of the night and compel them to watch Paraguay play Burkina Faso at 3am, and see their delight when it’s a nil all draw after 90 minutes of play?
That’s pretty much the closest parallel that I can come up with in regards to watching this flick. Of course, trying to get my kid to watch soccer would be virtually impossible, and would be an even greater torment for me. Wait, the parallels are multiplying!
Rio 2 is the sequel to, um, some other animated flick whose name escapes me, and is a film uniquely suited to existing solely as a sequel.
The reality is that it's not actually a sequel to Rio. It's a remake of a previous sequel, being Meet the Parents.
Blu (Ben Stiller Junior, also known as Jesse Eisenberg) is an allegedly rare blue macaw from the jungles of the Amazon. He is forced, by circumstance, to spend time with his hardass father-in-law (Robert DeNiro surrogate Andy Garcia), who utterly hates him for most of the film, and the plot contrives to have Blu embarass himself continuously in the old man's eyes until the very end, where Blu can do one thing to redeem himself in the eyes of his father-in-law, his wife Jewel (Anne Hathaway) and random strangers.
He also has to contend with his partner's ex-boyfriend/childhood friend Roberto (future Owen Wilson in the form of Bruno Mars), who's way more attractive and successful than Blu is. These threats to Blu's masculinity / birdability needle at him continuously, despite the fact that Roberto is a terrible bird, and sounds most of the time like a poor man's Michael Jackson impersonator (which is, I believe, the bedrock of Bruno Mars's alleged career as a pop singer as well).
And, what else, oh, Blu's kids think he's a loser, his wife thinks he's a loser because her daddy thinks he's a loser.
But he's not, okay? He's not *sob*. He'll show them, he'll show them all!
Wait, what? Is this a kid's flick, with, like, talking birds and dogs and frogs and such? So what kids do they imagine in the world are even in the least bit interested in the egos of middle-aged men dealing with their difficult fathers-in-law?
That is the plot, I'm not kidding. Some of the details may be different, but, really, the flick goes out of its way to introduce to child audiences a set of clichés that will doubtless be in the movies they download straight to their brains in the future, since they've been clichés in 'our' grown up movies for at least the last forty years.
And it's a thoroughly wretched plot, aimed at the satisfactions and egos of people who doubtless shouldn't be watching these kinds of colourful entertainments in the first place.
The movie does go one better, though. It doesn't just entertain, oh no. It educates. It teaches. You see, maybe it's been too long since kids were told about the destruction of the Amazonian rainforests, the lungs of the world. Perhaps too many kids haven't been accosted by lunatics dressed as koalas or toucans lately, screaming against logging and such; maybe their primary school teachers have grown tired of droning on about the same tearful message all these years.
So it's possible they don't know that the Amazonian rainforests are being chewed up at a rate of about 61 square kilometres a day. This makes it a public service announcement, an education in the form of a brightly coloured action fest. Well, now they know. And they’ll also find out that there is only one evil man behind it all, who’s the Big Boss, and he wears a panama hat and orders people to do evil stuff while cutting down all those massive trees. Since he's the only one doing this evil stuff, you beat him and it's game over.
And when they (the children, the poor ignorant children we’re all supposed to *please think of*) get to the end of this film, they'll see that the problem was solved. That the threat to the rainforest is over, thanks to the efforts of some brightly coloured birds and the clueless tree-hugging humans who aid them. That's it. It's done. No need to worry about it any more, everything's fine now. The baddies even call the ineffectual humans tree huggers, and strap them to a tree, so that they're hugging it just before they're supposed to die
Subtle, much? Actually, I'm not sure that the intentions behind those scenes are to make the baddies look bad and the 'good' humans look good. The contempt with which the 'good' humans are treated is probably one they (the makers) envisage the audience shares with the baddies, thinking that all this palaver over trees and birds and the environment and such is just a bunch of baloney.
Hard to reconcile those two contradictory standpoints, but I am a man of many contradictions. Mentioning as I did the World Cup earlier, and seeing as this is set in Brazil, it was inevitable that a football / soccer scene would result, even when its players are birds (which makes the game look more like quidditch than soccer), and it's just as tiresome (though far more eventful) than the real world equivalent. And I have to admit that I got to watch more soccer during that part than I have the whole time the World Cup's been on, but then I'm a stickler for avoiding sport. It interferes with my movie watching / drinking / quality parenting.
Blu is an annoying character, there's no denying that, but pretty much everyone else is an annoying character in this. It's an annoying character cavalcade of fun. Jesse Eisenberg has a particularly annoying voice, especially in this, to the extent that I wonder if there couldn't have been anyone else on the planet with a better voice for an animated movie, like maybe former Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Keith Richards, Tom Waits, some garbage truck driver who's had his larynx ripped out in an unfortunate industrial accent, anyone, basically anyone other than him. He's an actor I like, 'tis true, whether he's Zuckerberging the place up or not, just not particularly in this.
If there's a character I liked, it's probably the villainous cockatoo Nigel (Jemaine Clement). He has no reasonable reason to be in the flick, other than the character was in the first one, and all he wants is a Shakespearean level of revenge, but it's just that the character is so funny, Jemaine's voice work is always a delight, and hearing him sing reminds me of why I liked Flight of the Conchords so much (at least when they were singing). So singing a Conchords-like version of I Will Survive is probably a cliche, but I think it's the high point of the flick. There was a strange, but for me enjoyable sub-sub-sub plot with a poisonous tree frog called Gabi (Kristen Chenoweth) falling in love with Nigel, but lamenting the fact (via song) that she can never touch him, or he'd instantly die because of the neurotoxin exuded by her skin. Love hurts, it's true, it's so true.
All it mostly did was remind me why the main 'plot' was so boring, so tediously boring and cliché-riddled, but how colourful. Truly very colourful, and there are bunches of jokes, probably one in seven or eight, that are approaching that thing scientists call 'funny'. Most of them are so lazy that they wouldn't rise above the level of "moo let the dogs out?" or "Oh no he didn't!", but some of the jokes land. Some is better than none.
Rio 2 isn't completely and utterly worthless. It is not entirely horrible school holidays watching for the parents, and if it's a choice between this and Tinker Bell and the Pirate Fairy, by all means, please choose this, for the love of gods, choose this one instead. Kids seem to enjoy the stuff, but what do they know. They're ignorant. That's why they're kids.
We should know better, though. If you can stomach the Blue Sky stable of animated movies (you know, the substandard ones, the Ice Ages and such), then this is right up your alley. Just don't go expecting Pixar level stuff, because, let's face it, even Pixar doesn't make Pixar-quality level stuff anymore, and if they can't do it, who can?
6 times certain movies make a compelling case for extinction out of 10
"We are going to the Amazon...yay!
- "Like, the website?" - topical, oh so topical and fresh - Rio 2