2011’s Rio is one of the many animated features from Blue Sky Studios. Blue Sky isn’t exactly known for telling particularly original or daring animated stories (especially if compared to the likes of Pixar), but they have made more than a few fun features, and Rio is one of them. It may not be spectacular, but Rio provides some good entertainment.
The hero of Rio is a blue macaw named Blu (Jesse Eisenberg). Though Blu was born in Brazil, he was taken by smugglers as a chick before he could learn how to fly. Thankfully, Blu is rescued from the smugglers, and ends up as the pet of a spunky librarian named Linda (Leslie Mann), who lives in Minnesota.
Blu lives a happy life with Linda, though being a pampered pet, he still never gets around to learning how to fly. But Blu’s life is thrown a curveball when a Brazilian ornithologist named Tulio comes to town, and informs Linda that he has tracked down Blu, as he is the last known male blue macaw. Tulio’s aviary in Rio de Janeiro houses one of the few remaining female blue macaws, so Linda and Tulio come to an agreement to bring Blu to the aviary so that he can mate with the female and preserve their species.
When Blu meets his would-be mate, Jewel (Anne Hathaway), it turns out that love is a lot harder than simply being paired up together. Jewel is determined to escape from the aviary, and wants nothing to do with humans, or Blu. But things are made more complicated when a band of smugglers, along with their dastardly cockatoo Nigel (Jemaine Clement), kidnap Blu and Jewel from the aviary. Though Blu and Jewel manage to escape, they are chained together, with Blu’s inability to fly proving to be a recurring dilemma.
Thus, Blu and Jewel set out to find a way to break the chain, with Blu hoping to get back to Linda and Jewel wishing to return to the wild. Meanwhile, Linda and Tulio are out searching for the bird duo, as are Nigel and the smugglers.
It’s a very simple, basic plot, and it shouldn’t be too difficult to predict where it ends up, but it provides some solid fun. That’s really all this movie is trying to be, fun. It doesn’t attempt to tell a deep story, and it doesn’t really boast the usual messages in its narrative like most animated family films (except perhaps overcoming your fears, which comes into play with Blu’s flight problems). But if you’re just looking to watch an animated film that provides some good entertainment value, you could do a lot worse than Rio.
The voice work is also pretty well done from the actors, and there are even some fun musical numbers in the film (though their sparseness is questionable. If you’re gunning to make an animated musical you should just go all out with it). But perhaps the best highlight of the film is the animation itself.
Rio is a vibrantly colorful movie, and it does a great job at combining cartoonish and realistic elements in its setting and environments. The character designs are also pleasing, with the various birds (and other animals) once again successfully replicating their real world counterparts while also being exaggeratedly animated. Even the human characters (often a more tricky subject) stand out for being more caricatured, instead of replicating realistic traits, thus avoiding any creepy “fake” qualities that often arise when trying to animate characters too realistically.
In the end, Rio is not the movie to turn to when you’re looking for an animated classic, but it is the kind of movie both kids or adults could watch and be entertained by it. What it lacks in depth and originality it makes up for with beautiful animation and a well-paced plot.