Blu (Jesse Eisenberg) and Jewel (Anne Hathaway) are back with three additions to their family. Although time has moved forward, the gang is still in tact, the music rocks just as loud, and the colors are just as vibrant. Yet with all its’ shimmer, “Rio 2” is dulled by multiple themes and storylines that point in opposite directions.
The beauty of “Rio” was that it showed us an animated but authentic mock up of Rio de Janeiro and had a classic story outline that was easy to follow. Blu was thought to be the last male blue macaw bird in the world, and Jewel was the last female. After being domesticated for years in America by his owner Linda (Leslie Mann), Blu, who didn’t know how to fly, and Jewel met in an effort to keep the species alive. Yet after being kidnapped by smugglers, the two had to work together to get to freedom. Pretty succinct right? (More happened in the film of course, but it was simple.)
In “Rio 2” Linda and her husband Tulio (Rodrigo Santoro) find more blue macaw’s living deep in the Amazon. This incites a family trip for Blu, Jewel, the kids, and their motley group of friends- cardinal Pedro (will.i.am), toucan Rafael (George Lopez), and yellow canary Nico (Jamie Foxx). While Blu and Jewel struggle with raising their children with Blu’s domestication and Jewel’s living naturally in the wild on their trip; their friends are searching for new talent for Carnival.
On their way to the Amazon they attract the attention of Nigel (Jemaine Clement), a cockatoo and Shakespearean actor, who seeks revenge from Blu giving him a devastating injury that left him unable to fly in “Rio”. Once the group arrives in the Amazon they reunite with Jewel’s thought-to-be-lost family who are hiding deep in the rain forest to escape human poachers and illegal loggers. Not only do the blue macaws have an environmental fight against humans, but they’re up against a large family of red macaw’s for forest space. The youthful leader of the blue macaw family, Roberto (Bruno Mars), engages in a friendly “girl that got away” grudge match with Blu as well. Do you see what I’m talking about? There are way to many subplots in this film that take away from what it did best in “Rio”, which is entertain while keeping the story moving forward at a good pace. The film feels like it was written in chapters for each situation with a thin through line.
At the end of the day who cares about subplots and disjointedness? Certainly not the crowd full of kids that I saw the film with. I guess that’s what director Carlos Saldanha counted on. “Rio 2” will definitely entertain the kids, and allow parents a moment to relax and laugh with their children. Unfortunately, as a film, it’s the embodiment of a great first animated feature with a lesser sequel.