Latest CGI kids’ flick from Ice Age creators
Carlos Saldanha, director of Ice Age, warms things up a bit for Blue Sky Studios’ latest computer-animated flick, Rio. The exotic-feathered tale follows an awkwardly charming, Minnesota-raised blue macaw named Blu (voiced by Jesse Eisenberg), who reluctantly travels to Brazil to mate with the sole remaining female of his endangered species: a feisty birdie named Jewel (Anne Hathaway). But don’t worry; even though the plot is driven by these birds’ need to get physical, the G-rating keeps that fact purely implicit. It’s more about the birds, and not so much the bees.
This is no Pixar film. Though I hesitate to compare every animated film to the reigning kings of CGI, it’s fair to say that most often they just don’t live up to the same level of storytelling. Rio is no different.
It is (mildly) entertaining. As soon as Blu and Jewel meet way down south, a chain of extraordinary events occurs, keeping them running for their lives through Rio. The majority of the film follows these love birds escaping the wrath of menacing bird smugglers to find their way into the arms of Blu’s good-natured owner, Linda (Leslie Mann). The story stays fresh enough, and the young audience won’t complain (the kids in my theater laughed repeatedly), but for those of us who hold a special place in our hearts for the classics like Toy Story or Up, there’s just no comparison.
But what Blue Sky Studios lacks in narrative quality, it makes up for with visuals. The colors explode, and the animated snapshots of Rio’s landscapes made me want to buy a one-way ticket to Brazil. This eye candy, mixed with a few pop-musical numbers and some comedic supporting voice-talents (Tracy Morgan as a bulldog and George Lopez as a loveable toucan) keeps things fun for the 96 minutes. And, with the weekend-opening ticket sales giving colorful Rio twice the take as bloody Scream 4, it’s obvious blue is more popular than red.