Film Review: Rio 2, Or Blue Birds Of Hippie-Ness

April 10, 2014



Rio 2 / Directed by Carlos Saldanha / PG


The first Rio was a harmless, entertaining confection that left little or no lasting impression with me, though it did very, very well at the box-office and in DVD sales. The sequel, incisively entitled Rio 2 (who got paid a fortune for coming up with that?), is a lot more memorable and has a lot of nifty plusses besides.

When last seen, the Blue Macaw called Blu was saved from extinction and living happily in Rio with his mate in the care of naturalist humans who also decided to get hitched.   This time round the Amazon rainforest calls and the Blu family – including a sulky teen permanently moored to her iPod – head off for a vacation inspired by the rumour that there just may be more of their species hiding in the jungle.

What follows is a mash-up of half a dozen themes including ecology, evil loggers deforesting Brazil, the importance of family in an amusing rip-off of Meet The Family, the impending World Cup, nature versus nurture and the like.  Sometimes it’s all a bit much and the kiddies may feel a bit punch-drunk by the end, but on the whole it is fun and hugely entertaining.

By moving the narrative into the forest, Saldhana has many more opportunities for spectacle and inventiveness, and the use of colour is gorgeous.  Calling the film Rio 2 is a bit of a swizz since we only ever see Rio in the opening, but hey – branding…..

Saldanha and his collaborators create some particularly effective sequences.  I rather liked the pop-up cardboard book that charted the family’s journey to the Amazon, and there is a futbol match that is just plain wonderful  – and, of course, there has to be a Carnival Samba, but this one sports Rita Moreno, no less!   What’s more, the references to an endless number of films including, obviously, The Birds, Annie Hall and Black Orpheus are fun for the adults even though they won’t mean a thing for the kids.

Actually, come to think of it, they won’t mean a thing for anyone other than the grandparents, but why shouldn’t they become a new niche market?  They have time on their hands to watch the kids and the movies, right?

You’ll be pleased to know that the hammy, declamatory and deluded Nigel the Cockatiel (Jemaine Clement) is back, seeking revenge.  This time he is accompanied by a vividly coloured, poisonous tree frog voiced by Kristin Chenoweth, whose Broadway power-ballad of unrequited love is splendidly witty, and the two of them steal the film against some good competition from Andy Garcia and, indeed, Bruno Mars.

More so than the first film, the songs and score are integrated and pretty impressive, including one of the more outrageous renditions around of I Will Survive from Nigel, as is the use of 3D format,  and I was really tickled by the Samba makeover of the 20th Century Fox fanfare.