Published Apr 07, 2011When I see things like animated birds rapping and hip-hop dancing, giving each other high-fives and making an all around strained effort to be hip and fresh, circa 1992, I go to a happy place of trashy daytime talk shows, cake-fart ladies and Gary Busey interviews with little girls that chooses to laugh rather than cry about the overwhelming desperation and absurdity of a culture gone wrong.
It's far easier than trying to discern just how something like Rio ― a veritable potpourri of antiquated marketing ideas and piecemeal concepts juxtaposed against a desultory, abrasive and colourful assemblage ― came to be.
It opens in South America, with an abundance of bird species coming together to perform a choreographed rendition of a peppy, salsa-flavoured ditty to celebrate the kicking of baby birds from their nests. But before young Blu (Jesse Eisenberg) ― the last male blue Macaw ― can take his leap into freedom and manhood, bird smugglers come and take them away, interrupting the harmonious tedium of dancing, singing and generalized repetition. Insert supercilious liberal morality here.
The rest of the film plays on the distinction between freedom and growing fond of one's cage, jumping ahead some years to find Blu the domesticated pet of bookish entrepreneur Linda (Leslie Mann). Taken to Rio to repopulate his species, with the reluctant, headstrong Jewel (Anne Hathaway), he confronts his fear of flight while dodging kidnapping attempts from Brazilian smugglers and the nefarious Nigel (Jemaine Clement), an ex-prize bird turned evil.
Now, aesthetically, the 3-D dimensioning and colour-saturated specificity of this latest animated effort are quite impressive, never caving to showy gimmicks and having a generalized crispness. Similarly, the occasional chase sequence in the film maximizes the animation format, zooming through the streets of Rio in ways that an actual camera never could, delivering a propulsive, visual treat.
Unfortunately, the film itself is absolute garbage. There's no organic flow whatsoever and it genuinely feels like someone took a rushed treatment and forced in musical numbers without checking to see if they made any contextual sense. The jokes are all exceedingly dated and discomforting, often relying on the aforementioned horrors of Jamie Foxx and will.i.am rapping and doling out sexual innuendo.
What's more is that everything in the film boils down to criminality, beyond the central message of freedom, patronizingly suggesting social constraints as a cause of the thieving industry in Brazil. With gangs of singing marmosets looting resorts and children being exploited to traffic goods, there's a weird underlying seediness and political incorrectness to a film that desperately wants to be a light-hearted family treat.
This, like everything else in Rio, never meshes or makes any particular sense, leaving an overall feeling of dissatisfaction and perplexity after the credits roll. (Fox)