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When Blu, a domesticated macaw from small-town Minnesota, meets the fiercely independent Jewel, he takes off on an adventure to Rio de Janeiro with this bird of his dreams.
For more about Rio 3D and the Rio 3D Blu-ray release, see Rio 3D Blu-ray Review published by Casey Broadwater on August 5, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Anne Hathaway, Jesse Eisenberg, Tracy Morgan, Leslie Mann, Jane Lynch, Jamie Foxx
Director: Carlos Saldanha
» See full cast & crew
Rio 3D Blu-ray Review
Birds of a feather are merely so-so together.
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, August 5, 2011
I've decided I'm going to exhaust all my bird-related puns/metaphors in one go so as not to subject you to them for any longer than necessary. Ready? Alright, here goes, I'm just going to wing it: Rio is a featherweight, talon-less CGI lark that never heads south or goes fowl--it's no turkey--but it rarely ventures out on a limb to stand out from the summer blockbuster flock, and it flaps around for an hour and a half without ever taking flight. It's hardly eggcellent, but it's not horwrendous--at times, it's quite pheasant--and I certainly don't, uh, egret watching it. I know, I know, I'm a dodo. Now that that's out of my system, feel free to write me hate mail or, if you must, ostrich-ize me. I'm no chicken; I can swallow my pride and take a good grousing.
Sorry. So, so, so sorry. Anyway, Rio. What I said above, in the most obnoxious way possible, is pretty much how I feel about 20th Century Fox's latest animated adventure from Blue Sky Studios, the CGI production house that gave us the Ice Age franchise and 2008's Dr. Seuss adaptation, Horton Hears a Who! Blue Sky was initially touted as a Pixar-killer, but none of the studio's features have come close to approaching--let alone surpassing--Pixar's high storytelling standards. Rio is no different. It's fun summertime fluff, and it's definitely easy on the eyes, but it's grounded by a leaden plot and disposable characters.
Rio tells the story of Blu (Jesse Eisenberg), a hapless, cerulean-hued macaw who was smuggled out of Brazil and into America as a chick-- before he ever learned to fly--and sold to Linda, an owlish little girl in snowy Moose Lake, Minnesota. Years later, at the bookstore adult Linda (Leslie Mann) owns, an ornithologist named Tulio (Rodrigo Santoro) shows up with an unexpected proposition. As it turns out, Blu is one of two remaining blue macaws in the world, and Tulio wants to fly him down to Rio de Janeiro to, shall we say, propagate his species with Jewel (Anne Hathaway), the last female specimen. So, yes, this children's movie is basically about bird sex--when you get down to the nitty gritty of it--but, of course, it's been tidily sanitized for family consumption. (On a related note, I'm still waiting for a crassly satirical, Meet the Feebles-style R-rated CGI adventure. Surprise me, Hollywood.)
When Blu arrives in Rio, the sassy, independent, and patently uninterested Jewel spurns his kissy-faced advances, but the two are soon rendered literally inseparable after Marcel (Carlos Ponce), a dread-headed and goateed smuggler, steals them from the aviary--with the help of a cute orphaned street kid--and chains their feet together. Cuffed and initially at odds, Blu and Jewel eventually manage to escape, pursued by Marcel's dumb-as-dirt henchmen and his psychotic parrot, Nigel (Jemaine Clement), a plumed cockatoo who, as he tells us in a Flight of the Conchords-inspired musical interlude, likes to "poop on people and blame it on seagulls." Believe it or not, Nigel is the film's best character, devious, maniacal, and the closest Rio comes to having any kind of danger.
There's really not much of a story here. Blu and Jewel traipse around Rio, trying to get unchained and falling for each other in the process, while Linda and Tulio tool around town on a motorbike, getting love pangs themselves while they look for the lost birds. Between the rom-com predictability, the usual anthropomorphized animal hijinks, and the big-but-generic musical numbers, there's nothing about Rio that's particularly surprising. It's varied and fast-paced, but its characters feel like afterthoughts and there are no emotional highs or lows, just an even, relatively drama-less plane with some nice scenery and a few good sight gags. And this is where Blue Sky loses out to Pixar time after time--the studio doesn't back technical proficiency with a story worth caring about. Jessie Eisenberg's Blu is a dull protagonist, and while Anne Hathaway gets to display a bit more range voicing Jewel, they're both just going through the inoffensive, mildly entertaining commercial kid movie motions. Likewise, the supporting vocal cast members--including George Lopez as a mentoring toucan, Tracy Morgan as a drooling bulldog, and Will.i.am and Jamie Foxx as a pair of suave local birds--are good but have underwritten, so-what roles.
It's not that Rio is unlikeable, it's just not very memorable. It's like a pretty postcard with a hastily written message; you look at it once and chuck it in a desk drawer, never to be seen again. That said, the movie definitely deserves credit for what it does do right. With a score by John Powell and incidental music supervised by living legend Sérgio Mendes, the film is carried and propelled along by nearly non-stop samba rhythms, recalling the best film about Rio de Janeiro, Marcel Camus' Black Orpheus. The climactic carnaval sequence--a chase through the parade--is beautifully and kinetically executed, and the happy-ever-after ending, while as rote as they come, at least avoids going too dippily saccharine. At best, the film is a cheery, lazy summer blockbuster vacation. It doesn't require you to do or even feel anything; you're just supposed to lay back, relax, and soak it all in. Fittingly, the film's CGI palette is so bright, you'll feel like you've got a suntan just watching it.
Rio 3D Blu-ray, Video Quality
Rio in 2D is simply superlative in just about every measurable or subjectively eye-balled category--it's bright, extremely colorful, tack-sharp, and boasts a convincing illusion of depth--and the 1080p, MVC-encoded 3D version of the film is very nearly perfect as well. First of all, this is an insanely colorful movie. Most CGI animated pictures are vivid, but this one is a non-stop barrage of lushly saturated hues. Primary colored beach balls and umbrellas pop. The macaws are a dazzling cerulean blue, jungle greens are intense, and the purple/pink neons inside the bird "nightclub" are almost palpably hot, without ever looking overblown. The climactic carnival scene might just be the most vibrant, multi-colored sequence I've seen in a film all year. Additionally, black levels are truly inky and contrast is spot-on. Just as impressive is the degree of clarity in the computer-generated image. This isn't a film that features particularly intricate texture design, but you only have to look at the ruffled bird features, individually visible strands of monkey fur, and fine human hair to see how clean and detailed the image can be.
There are a few lunge-out-of-the-TV moments--see the first screenshot in the review, where Blue and Jewel slingshot out of a volleyball net--but the 3D presentation is mostly concerned with generating additional depth. This is very impressive at times, especially in the scene where the two macaws are hitching a ride on a hang glider over the city. It's not quite faultless, though. Occasionally, when the image presents multiple planes of focus, crosstalk becomes apparent, usually in the background. The ghosting is rarely severe, but it is noticeable. There are also a few instances where foreground objects are perhaps too jarringly separated from what's behind them. This is more subjective, so you might not be bothered by it as much, but some scenes did put a bit of strain on my eyes. Lastly, I didn't spot any overt compression problems like banding or excessive noise. Personally, I prefer the film in 2D, but the 3D version definitely justifies itself with quite a few "wow" moments.
Rio 3D Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Turn this one up loud. Trust me. Rio 3D features the same stunningly immersive DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track that graces the 2D release, and I wouldn't have it any other way. The sound design in this film is simply luscious--rich, crisp, and dynamically powerful. Listen to the bird calls as the film opens in the Brazilian jungle; they almost sound like binaural, 3D audio recordings, convincingly putting you inside the soundstage. This quality is consistent throughout nearly the entire film. Just about every scene features brilliantly detailed rear channel ambience, from street sounds and chatter downtown by the oceanfront, to the insects and hush of wind in the trees up on the mountains above the city. The sense of directionality is extremely accurate too--when a bike whips by, the sound pans quickly and believable. I could list three paragraphs' worth of examples, but take my word for it; this track is as involving as anything you'll hear this year. Add the almost non-stop music--classic Sérgio Mendes numbers, songs by Taio Cruz, and John Powell's samba-inflected score--and you have a mix that very nearly lifts the film out of mediocrity. The percussion, in particular, sound wonderful, pounding and bass-heavy and coming from all directions. Somehow, vocals remain clean and clear in the midst of all this, both for dialogue and in song. The disc includes optional English SDH and Spanish subtitles.
Rio 3D Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
There are no special features on the 3D disc, but along with a DVD and a digital copy, the set includes the standard 2D Blu-ray, with its favela-sized sprawl of bonus materials.
Rio 3D Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Rio is middle-of-the-road family-friendly CGI fare, with barely-there characters and a story that can't have taken the film's menagerie of screenwriters more than an hour to dream up. Still, it's got great music, eye-popping visuals, and the target under-10 audience will probably eat it right up. If you have a 3D-capable television or think you might ever purchase one, this is the version of the film to get, as it includes a 3D disc, the regular 2D Blu-ray, a DVD, and a digital copy, all for marginally more than what you'd pay for the standard edition. As you've come to expect from these kinds of films, the audio/video presentation is fantastic, and while watching in 3D is hardly essential to the enjoyment of the film, Rio's bright color scheme lends itself well to the format.
Rio: Other Editions
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