Review in a Hurry: Anne Hathaway and Jesse Eisenberg are birds of a feather, chained together and on the run from bungling animal smugglers in this 3-D animated tale. An all-star cast that includes Jamie Foxx, George Lopez, and Will.i.am keeps this colorful adventure moving—but the jokes and set pieces never really soar.
The Bigger Picture: Blu (Eisenberg) is a rare breed of macaw who never learned to fly. He's never minded, though, since he grew up with Linda (Leslie Mann), his human owner who loves and cares for him—some might say a tad too much? Life is good in the small town of Moose Lake, Minnesota until the day a bird expert from Rio de Janeiro informs Linda that Blu is beyond rare, he's one of only two in existence. The female half is back in Rio. So it's off they go so Blu can meet his mate! But Blu is skeptical of the match, and would rather stay nice and cozy in his heated apartment.
The casting is spot on. Fresh off The Social Network, Eisenberg is the only actor around who can pull off such a nerdy birdie who's more of a city-dweller. Blu is confident in what he knows and hopelessly inept at everything else. Hathaway is charming as ever as a Jewel, the sassy, independent female macaw. Jewel's as attractive a bird as Hathaway's a human so no surprise that she isn't the least bit interested in outdoor-impaired Blu. Their banter has plenty of chemistry. It's fun to see the sparks fl between these destined-to-fall-in-love lovebirds.
Sadly, strong leads aren't enough once the story tries to take off.
Director Carlos Saldanha doesn't have much for the duo to do beyond the terrific set-up. After that Blu and Jewel are captured by greedy (and easily distracted) poachers, tossed in a cage and then fleeing from place-to-place talon-cuffed to each other, almost getting captured again and then narrowly escaping. Rinse, repeat.
Along the way the two meet other helpful birds and one slobbering bulldog played by Tracy Morgan. As long as the celebrity voices don't distract (ahem, will.i.am) they are a welcome breaks from the monotony of our blue feathered couples' journey.
Visually, it's refreshing to see the Ice Age creators using a full range of colors. The jungles of Rio are so rich and lush it's akin to an old Technicolor musical. Which is great since there are also a few entertaining song and dance routines. Also compelling are the poorer areas of Brazil seen as grey, washed out shantytowns, a stark contrast to the paradise Jewel (and most tourists) want to flock to. There's plenty of eye candy, even if you see it in 2-D.
While 3-D has been best used in animated films, Rio doesn't need the treatment. It's certainly not worth the inflated ticket price. To be honest, Blu's adventure is perfectly suited for home video when it's on um, "blu" ray.
The 180—a Second Opinion: A good villain can only get you so far but Jermaine Clement as Nigel, the cannibalistic bird from Down Under is a scene-stealer. Fans of his HBO series Flight of the Conchords will love his show-stopping musical number. Nigel maybe be a cockatoo but his verbal stylin' is pure Conchords.