When Rio arrived in 2011 it was a surprise hit. But, upon reflection, the filmmakers at Blue Sky had given us the charming Ice Age series, and considering that director Carlos Saldanha is from Brazil, his love letter to his hometown came through on every frame and an international smash was born.
Now, three years later, we have Rio 2. And because it’s a sequel and everything has to be bigger in a film follow-up, Saldanha has upped the ante and sent Blu (Jesse Eisenberg) and Jewel (Anne Hathaway) into the Amazon.
Let’s back up a little bit.
We left off in Rio and begin in Rio 2 with Jewel and Blu living happily under protection at a bird sanctuary in the titular city. Their animal and avian friends are back -- the musically inclined Nico (Jamie Foxx) and Pedro (Will.I.Am), the bulldog Luiz (Tracy Morgan) and the toucan Rafael (George Lopez) -- and are helping raise the couple’s three little blue macaws.
The returning cast is great, but as a sequel -- everybody knows -- we must expand and grow. That happens on several fronts.
At the end of Rio, Blu’s “owner” Linda (Leslie Mann) had found a new home in Brazil and a love in Tulio (300 Rise of an Empire star Rodrigo Santoro).
Blu and Jewel see the two bird preservers on television with huge news -- they’ve discovered a flock of blue macaws deep in the Amazonian jungle. Jewel adores the idea of not being the only blue macaws left and convinces her content to be stuck in the city mate Blu to take the family on an adventure to “find their roots.”
The entire Rio cast heads into the Amazon in search of Linda, Rodrigo and they hope, Jewel’s family.
As you can see by the Rio 2 trailer, they are super. Andy Garcia voices Jewel’s father Eduardo, Bruno Mars is Roberto (a former Jewel suitor) and legend Rita Moreno is Jewel’s Aunt Mimi.
The fish out of water story is put to use here with Blu not so sure about his new environ. And thus we have the conflict with Jewel because every sequel has to have conflict. There’s flirtation from Roberto. Blu has difficulty with Eduardo (the clear leader of the flock). It all is, unfortunately, quite predictable.
One terrific aspect is our villain from the first film, Nigel (an awesome Jermaine Clement -- don't miss his version of I Will Survive), who sees his nemesis in Blu and follows him into the jungle to seek revenge -- accompanied by Kristen Chenoweth’s Gabi (a poisonous frog). The pair are terrific together and provide much of the movie’s laughs.
Our Rio 2 review finds that it is all good fun. The youngest of moviegoers will adore it. But as a fan of those great Rio quotes and the film as a whole, Movie Fanatic can’t help but feel that something is missing. With the landscape and cast greatly expanded, there should have been more pots of gold. Instead, we found a large helping of predictability.
But at the end of the day, this fan of the music of the area would see the film again, simply for the score and soundtrack. It sambas and firmly sashays into your heart.
Witness the charm of the first film and watch Rio online.
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