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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2014

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In Movies & TV Reviews

A bunch of birds - and some other animal friends - star in "Rio 2," now playing.

"Rio 2" is yet another enjoyably forgettable animated adventure


"Rio" is a 2011 animated film about a special blue macaw who couldn't fly, needed to mate with a female friend for the sake of his species and … yep, that's all that my memory can summon.

The Brazilian-based kids film isn't bad; it's bouncy and sweet and occasionally funny. It's also instantly forgettable, just another animated offering hoping to hijack theaters for a few months, swindle some cash from the perpetually open audience of kids and parents, and then vanish from thought, never to seen or heard from again like a bright and happy animated D.B. Cooper.

"Rio," however, made a lot of money ($143 million here with an additional $341 million overseas). So, lo and behold, there is now a "Rio 2" to follow in its predecessor's faint, barely visible pop cultural footprints.

Much like the first movie, it's colorful and vibrant and cracks a few good jokes here or there. It's a generally enjoyable film, albeit one that feels like several animated features audiences have seen and forgotten long before – a sensation not helped by opening with a repeat viewing of the over-caffeinated, predictable and joyless Steve Martin-led cartoon short "Almost Home" from "Mr. Peabody & Sherman."

After surviving smugglers in the first film, endangered blue Spix's macaws Blu (Jesse Eisenberg) and Jewel (Anne Hathaway) are now cozily living in leisure with their friends and three excitable teenaged kids at their wildlife reserve in Rio. However, their pampered existences get a shake-up when their globe-trekking human guardians (Leslie Mann and Rodrigo Santoro) think they've discovered a covey of Blu's species hidden in the Amazonian wilderness.

While Jewel is all about heading back into the wild, Blu is less than eager to leave his pampered life of blueberry pancakes, television and canned nuts. But even the animal kingdom knows the mantra "happy wife, happy life," so he packs up the kids – and a fanny pack. Ha. – on a quest to find their flock. Their musically inclined amigos (voiced by Jamie Foxx and will.i.am) come in tow looking for musical inspiration for Carnival, while their now flightless nemesis Nigel (Jemaine Clement) closely tails the whole posse with sadistic, Shakespearean revenge on his birdbrain. New addition Kristin Chenoweth voices his love-struck poison frog accomplice.

Soon after the feathered family arrives in the Amazon, "Rio 2" turns into "Meet the Parrots." Jewel's stern dad and flock leader (Andy Garcia) disapproves of the human-loving city slicker Blu, putting him through all sorts of nature tests while a studly – or as studly as a macaw can be – old childhood friend (Bruno Mars) chats up Jewel.

Familial fish-out-of-water comedy and drama ensues. It's all unsurprisingly sweet, colorful and amusing, but the crucial word here is "unsurprising." The story is pretty predictable, standard issue animated movie fluff. The only real deviation is that it's slightly more cluttered than most. A subplot involving a villainous logger (Miguel Ferrer), for instance, barely makes an impact other than as some token kid-simplified environmentalist finger wagging.

By the time the busy adventure reaches its final act, "Rio 2" turns into a rush job, scrambling to wrap up all of its assorted threads in nice, neat fashion. It'd be more upsetting if any one of the subplots felt more than feather light.

Still, the latest Blue Sky Studios offering (now prepping the oddly 2-and-a-half-D "Peanuts" film) is too brightly enjoyable to get too rankled. Save for the rare Criterion collecting seven-year-old in the crowd, it's hard to imagine any kids not enjoying themselves. The animation is beautifully lush and vibrant, the songs are pleasant if quickly disposable (much like the first film, "Rio 2" seems scared to come out as a musical, spending barely a minute or two with each song before scampering off to something else) and the jokes overall are cutely funny.

It's diverting enough for the parents in the crowd as well (get that quote ready for the DVD box art, Fox!), especially whenever scene-stealer Clement shows up. His quirkily Flight of the Conchord-ized version of "I Will Survive" serves as the movie's comedic highlight.

Even film fanatics might find some amusement in the logger enviro-villain vaguely dressed like Klaus Kinski from Werner Herzog's classic "Fitzcarraldo." At least it pleasantly distracted me for a bit; it's certainly more interesting than his actual subplot.

Regardless, "Rio 2" is a perfectly acceptable two-hour time kill that I will almost certainly have to remind myself that I saw when another sequel inevitably comes out in three years.



Theaters and showtimes for Rio 2
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