Yeah, Rio is a kids’ movie, and in a way it should be cut some slack for that very reason. Judged solely on that basis, it’s both colorful and fast-paced, and so it’s a perfectly acceptable distraction to set your kid in front of. Beyond that? Think of it as the prettiest Saturday morning cartoon you’ve ever laid eyes on.
In a year where we’ve already had one pretty entertaining kids’ film with Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules, and one pretty great film traipsing around as kid-centric in Rango, the ultimate outcome of Rio is pretty underwhelming. Director Carlos Saldanha, who directed or co-directed each of the Ice Age films, has made a film which lacks the weight, heart or intelligence of the top tier of animated movies, instead positioning itself as perfectly perfunctory and disposable children’s entertainment.
This by itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Even the generic, unsurprising plotting shouldn’t be an issue with this kind of movie—as long as the material is there to carry it. Unfortunately, what we get is a Three Stooges-marathon worth of slapstick squeezed into 96 minutes, taking the Preston Sturges assertion that “a pratfall is better than anything” to its logical, full bore conclusion.
It doesn’t help that there’s little to cut all the busyness with, since the plot—about a domesticated macaw named Blu (voiced by Jesse Eisenburg) who never learned how to fly and who finds himself on the run from bird smugglers in Brazil—literally does exactly what you expect at every turn. The voice acting is OK, mostly dragged by Jesse Eisenburg’s continued insistence on sticking with the Michael Cera path to fame and fortune and becoming a dull parody of himself. Anne Hathaway as fellow macaw Jewel is fine—until they ask her to sing, which isn’t so much bad as it is amazingly mediocre.
Actually, that can be said of all of the songs that show up in the film. They’re astonishingly forgettable for the most part, apart from a rapping cockatoo (voiced by Jemaine Clement, Dinner for Schmucks) that you probably wish you could forget. The pity in all of this, however, is that there is some handsome animation (and even some striking 3D effects), and even nice production design here and there. But what good is any of that when its plastered on top of a lackluster movie? Rated PG for mild off-color humor.