movie film review | chris tookey


© 20th Century Fox - all rights reserved
  Rio Review
Tookey's Rating
7 /10
Average Rating
7.25 /10
Jesse Eisenberg , Anne Hathaway, Jamie Foxx
Full Cast >

Directed by: Carolos Saldanha
Written by: Don Rhymer, Joshua Sternin, Jeffrey Ventimilia, Sam Harper, based on a story by Earl Rishey Jones and Todd Jones

Released: 2011
Origin: US
Colour: C
Length: 96

Rio is a joyful celebration of the great city and the glorious plumage of parrots.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

Bookmark and Share

It is also the most enjoyable animated film since Toy Story 3D. Carlos Saldanha, Brazilian director of the profitable Ice Age movies, has now made a film that is a cut above them in terms of wit, invention and voice-over talent.

Blu (superbly voiced by Jesse Eisenberg, last seen generating billions of dollars in The Social Network) is a spoiled, cowardly pet parrot, happy to follow his intellectual interests in snowy Minnesota with his adoring owner, bookshop-owner Linda (Leslie Mann). Blu can’t seem to get the hang of flying, but he has read numerous books about aeronautics and quadrated vector angles, and he’s compiled a list of other birds that can’t fly, so he doesn’t feel bad about it.

He’s a useful pet, too: so domesticated that he can operate a toaster, impersonate an alarm clock and cook breakfast. He even brushes his teeth, which can’t be sensible, as parrots don’t have teeth.

Blu and Linda’s comfortable lives are disrupted by the arrival of Tulio (Rodrigo Santoro), a Brazilian ornithologist, who assures them that Blu is the only surviving male of his kind. This is the last kind of responsibility that Blu wants. Nevertheless, Tulio insists that Blu travel to Rio, to breed with the last female blue macaw, who’s named Jewel (Anne Hathaway).

But when the two birds meet, it’s hardly love at first flight. Blu is as nervy and insecure as a feathered Woody Allen. He even has a tendency to sweat, which he thinks may be a biological impossibility.

By contrast, Jewel is freedom-loving and eager to escape. Too bad, then, that they’re captured by bird smugglers, and though they get away they find themselves locked together with a chain, while they are pursued by the smuggler’s evil pet cockatoo, voiced very funnily by Jemaine Clement.

The rest of the movie is essentially one long chase, as Blu and Jewel flee like Richard Hannay and his reluctant companion in The Thirty-Nine Steps, and come across all manner of local wildlife, from a rapping cardinal bird (voiced by Black Eyed Peas frontman to a talkative toucan (George Lopez).

It all leads up to a spectacular showdown at the Rio Carnaval, where Blu finally confronts his long-sublimated fear of flying.

You may think that there’s nothing particularly fresh about this storyline. After all, we’ve already had a penguin who couldn’t sing in Happy Feet, a Viking who couldn’t fight in How To Train Your Dragon, and a penguin who couldn’t surf in Surf’s Up. A parrot who can’t fly is just an extension of the same formula.

Where the film flies is in its use of 3D, which is genuinely exhilarating, its vibrant colours, and a refreshingly witty script.

Blu has numerous funny one-liners, while Nigel the criminal cockatoo has a good line in alliteration and menace. “Like an abandoned school,” he boasts, “I have no principal”.

The songs aren’t as melodic as I would have liked; as Blu complains, too many sambas sound the same. But the production numbers get by on colour, rhythm and infectious enthusiasm.

Children should love Rio, and adults won’t be bored either. This isn’t as moving as the Toy Story pictures and there’s no deep message, but it’s fun.

Key to Symbols