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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 and the Rio Blu-ray release, see Rio Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on July 28, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Director: Carlos Saldanha
Writers: Don Rhymer, Joshua Sternin, Jeffrey Ventimilia, Sam Harper
Starring: Anne Hathaway, Jesse Eisenberg, Tracy Morgan, Leslie Mann, Jane Lynch, Jamie Foxx
» See full cast & crew
Rio Blu-ray Review
The bird from Ipanema.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, July 28, 2011
Have you ever thought that you were born in the wrong time or place? My wife insists she was really meant to grow up in New York, not on the outskirts of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. When I was a young kid, I had a rather strong fascination with the Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt (yes, I was and am an incredible geek), and so thought for a little while at least that I should have been around in the 1930's and 1940's, as hard as those decades must have been. But that fascination simply melted away in the figurative sun of Brazil when I was first exposed to the haunting sounds of the Bossa Nova when I wasn't much older than when I had had my Roosevelt phase. As a struggling young student musician myself, I was captivated by the gorgeous, often minor keyed melodies and the incessant momentum of the hypnotic rhythm of this descendant of the Samba. One of the first groups I was exposed to, courtesy of my eldest sister who brought several of his albums home from college one summer, was Sergio Mendes, whose Brasil '66 consortium had ridden a sort of "second wave" of Bossa Nova in the late 1960's after Antonio Carlos Jobim and collaborators like Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd had taken the U.S. charts by storm in the early 1960's with such iconic songs as "Desafinado" and "The Girl from Ipanema." Now, Sergio sometimes got it from all quarters back in the day despite his massive record sales. Brazilians decried his genre bending approach as completely foreign (no pun intended), with little or any "native" feel for Brazilian rhythms. American critics often dismissed Brasil '66 as little more than elevator music gussied up with some ethnic percussion. Those early Brasil '66 albums have been reassessed through the years, though, and now stand as some of the finest examples of a really ingenious blending of American pop sensibility with Brazilian rhythms and harmonies (and it should be noted that the "second" Brasil '66 lineup starting with Fool on the Hill featured an all-"native" Brazilian rhythm section). Sergio was the biggest selling Brazilian star of his era, and he's maintained a steady presence in the music industry even after his Brasil '66 Top 10 days were far behind him. He reemerged after a somewhat quiet 70's period with the monster power ballad "Never Gonna Let You Go" in the early 1980's and then took the charts by storm again decades later with several collaborations with the Black Eyed Peas' Will.i.am (who voices one of the characters in this film). And though he contributed a score for the little remembered biographical film about Brazil's legendary soccer player, Pele, Rio marks Sergio's first entry in the soundtrack sweepstakes as an Executive Music Producer, and the indelible Mendes touch is all over the sonics of this film.
There's no denying that you've seen Rio before, albeit with different animals and settings. We've had this "fish out of water" scenario too many times in animated fare for it to be anything less than slightly annoying at this point, no matter how artfully it's handled. This time our "fish" (so to speak) is a rare blue macaw named Blu (The Social Network's Jesse Eisenberg) who is captured as a hatchling and through a quick series of misadventures ends up with a Minnesota girl named Linda (Leslie Mann), who raises him for the next 15 years until she's an adult with perhaps too much time on her hands and too much interest in her winged "companion." Out of nowhere a Brazilian ornithologist named Tulio (Rodrigo Santoro) shows up at Linda's snowy bookstore, informing both Linda and Blu that Blu is the last male of his species, and that in Brazil the last female is waiting, hopefully with a happy ending (again so to speak) guaranteeing survival of the species. That sets Blu and Linda off on a Brazilian adventure. Need it be stated that Blu's potential mate, Jewel (Anne Hathaway), isn't exactly thrilled with her prospective beau, and that the two blue macaws are kidnapped (birdnapped?) and must learn to work together to overcome their predicament?
So while it's inarguable that there is a predictable element to Rio, one which at least partially keeps this film from really getting airborne, it also can't be denied that for the most part the film is bright and breezy, often very funny, and simply enjoyable on a very basic level. There's really no suspense in Rio; it's a foregone conclusion that various characters will end up with each other, but as they say, getting there is half the fun, and Rio is blessed with a fine-feathered set of supporting cast members, including Nigel (Jemaine Clement) a psychotic cockatoo and former television star (don't ask) who is the chief nemesis of Blu and Jewel, as well as Rafael (George Lopez), a toucan who attempts to teach Blu how to fly, something his long captivity has kept his instincts from developing. Also on hand are a coterie of interesting voice actors, including Will.i.am, Jamie Foxx, Tracy Morgan, Jane Lynch, Wanda Sykes and wonderful Brazilian chanteuse Bebel Gilberto (Bebel is the daughter of one of the founders of the Bossa Nova, Joao Gilberto).
Rio isn't especially innovative, and is indeed kind of old hat a lot of the time, but it's so effortlessly pretty and brisk that most viewers most likely aren't going to mind all that much. While director Carlos Saldanha might be forgiven a bit of hyperbole for claiming in one of the bonus featurettes that Rio had never really been exploited on film (perhaps he hasn't heard of a little movie which actually helped introduce Bossa Nova to the world, Black Orpheus, available on a gorgeous Criterion BD), the fact is that there is indeed something exotic about Rio that helps to mitigate the stereotypical plot dynamics. When a film looks (and sounds) this gorgeous, it probably doesn't matter that you know where you're going when the journey is so filled with marvelous sights and sounds.
Rio Blu-ray, Video Quality
Rio wings onto Blu-ray with an absolutely gorgeous looking AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 2.40:1. As trite and predictable as some elements of the film undoubtedly are, from a visual standpoint this is state of the art CGI and the Blu-ray reproduces in often stunning grandeur the incredible palette the many artists working on the film brought to the table. From the first quasi-Busby Berkeley dance sequence, we're confronted with all sorts of outlandish bird creatures, many in stupendously bright and beautifully saturated color. Deep blood reds and unbelievably gorgeous cerulean blues fill the frame, with teals, aquamarines and turquoises also resplendent. Fine detail is exceptional, especially with regard to the rendering of the feathers, which flutter seemingly individually in the virtual breeze. Actually by comparison the human characters come off as a bit two dimensional (no pun intended, considering this film's 3D theatrical presentation). But it's the birdlife here that is the main calling card, as well as the beautifully rendered Rio backgrounds, and those pop with abundant vibrancy that should delight most any videophile.
Rio Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Rio, as might be inferred by my opening paragraph in the main body of the film above, depends more than is typically the case on its soundtrack to create its exotic ambience, and the good news is the lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track offered on this Blu is about as good as it gets. From the first moment of the film, when light bird calls dot the surrounds with various chirps and caws and then dissolve into a pulsating Samba rhythm, we know we're going to be literally immersed in a sonic wonderland, and that's certainly the case for the next hour and a half. The hauntingly propulsive rhythms of Carnaval fill the soundfield here with a battery of percussion instruments and one lovely source cue after another spills through the surrounds with seductive allure. Sergio contributes several songs with his group, but the soundtrack is filled to brim with many collaborators who give the musical side of things a lot of variety. Actually by comparison some of the character songs shoehorned into the production, notably one for chief villain Nigel, are pretty lame when stacked up against the native Brazilian fare. Voicework is also very well handled, with Hathaway once again proving what an appealing audio heroine she can be. Eisenberg is a little too laid back for my personal taste, but that works well within the nerdish confines of Blu's personality. It's the supporting cast which really shines vocally here, and they all sound magnificent on this track. Sound effects and music are perfectly positioned around the surrounds, and fidelity and dynamic range are spot on.
Rio Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Rio Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Rio may be one too many trips to the same story well, but it manages to overcome this potentially fatal flaw with incredibly gorgeous graphics and one of the best soundtracks in recent memory. While the Brazilian spirit is sometimes mentioned for its element of saudade, kind of a wistful longing, Rio is filled to the brim with the excitement and color of Carnaval. This is one of the sharpest, most colorful looking animated films in recent memory, and aurally it's a delight from first chirp to last strum of the bandolim. Highly recommended.
Rio: Other Editions
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