Movie Review: Rio

Colorful, imaginative with plenty of delightful characters voiced by top notch talent, Rio is a engaging and fun treat of a film.

Created by filmmaker Carlos Saldanha of the animated Ice Age franchise, the film takes place in the director's hometown of Rio de Janero, Brazil.

The opening sequence pulls in the audience right away, as colorful birds sing and fly in the Brazilian jungles in coordinated movements like synchronized swimmers. A baby blue macaw is watching all the swoops around him and is getting caught up in the musical melodies. At the very moment he is inspired to take his first leap out of the nest and join in the festivities, the jungle party comes to an abrupt halt when smugglers capture the group.

Years later, this baby blue bird is now a grown parrot named Blu (Jesse Eisenberg), living a comfortable life in Minnesota with his owner and best friend, Linda (Leslie Mann), a proprietor of a bookstore. The duo is inseparable, doing everything together from cooking to brushing teeth to going to work.

One day, a Brazilian scientist named Tulio (Rodrigo Santoro) pays them a visit and informs Linda that Blu is the last of his kind. He urges them to come to his Brazilian bird compound to mate with the last blue female macaw, Jewel. At first they refuse, but eventually Linda and Blu reluctantly agree to go.

And thus the fish-out-of-water hijinx begin. Blu's meeting with Jewel (Anne Hathaway) does not go well as the domesticated lad doesn't give jive with the wild lady. The two simply cannot stand each other.

Things go from bad to worse when smugglers break in to the compound and steal both birds to make piles of cash off the two rare creatures. It's an inside job of sorts as an Australian cockatoo named Nigel (Jemaine Clement) faked an injury to be brought in for treatment, but he is actually the chief henchman to the smugglers.

Chained together, Blu and Jewel, must not only get over their dislike for each other, but also find a way to work together because, as Jewel soon discovers, Blu doesn't know how to fly.

Meanwhile, Linda and Tulio embark on a search for the two birds which puts them on the bad guys' trail. While they work the city streets, the blue macaws have their own problems including being ambushed by a tribe of marmosets trained in the Brazilian martial art of capoeria among other adventures.

The entire things comes to a head at the Carnaval where music, a parade, people in costumes, giant floats all become part of the chaos of finding the smugglers and getting the birds reunited with their human counterparts.

It's the characters and the fish-out-of-water story that make the film so golden. Having both a wild and a domesticated parrot chained together makes for many funny moments, including a hand-gliding lesson that doesn't go so well, despite the coaching of Rafael the toucan (George Lopez).

The added layer of a gender-reversed Romancing the Stone love story between Blu and Jewel provides further comedy. And to see the pair slowly fall in love is actually endearing to watch.

All the supporting characters are given wonderful personalities with spot-on casting to match. The Black Eyed Peas' is Pedro, a red headed bird with a sidekick canary named Nico (Jamie Foxx) who help the two blue birds in their adventure. They also provide some of the films musical numbers. There is also Tracy Morgan as Luiz the bulldog that cannot stop drooling.

Even cameo bird roles are perfectly cast with Wanda Sykes and Jane Lynch as two Minnesota geese that make fun of Blu in the bookstore.

Clement, best known for the television series Flight of the Conchords makes for a likable villain as Nigel the cockatoo with a back story that explains why he is so bad. (Hint: it has something to do with his past as a once-famous soap opera star).

Rio itself is given a wonderful representation in the film. Aerial shots make for gorgeous views and certain landmarks like Corcovado, Sugar Loaf Mountain and the Sambadome are on full display.

It is not necessary to see the film in 3D as the story, the characters and the visuals are all there regardless of dimension, so in this case, 2D works just fine.