Parrot sex is the narrative impetus of Rio, and yet there’s still little spark to this animated tale of a domesticated Minnesota macaw named Blu (voiced by Jesse Eisenberg) who’s reluctantly taken to Brazil by his clingy owner, Linda (Leslie Mann), in order to mate with the last of his kind, tough beauty Jewel (Anne Hathaway). Greedy smugglers, a gang of thieving monkeys, the impending chaos of Carnival, and the initial incompatibility of Jewel’s confidence and Blu’s neurosis—epitomized by his inexplicable inability to fly—all conspire to frustrate the duo’s fated coupling. More exasperating, however, is the conventionality of this ornithological odyssey, which, like Blu, is unwilling to leave its comfort zone and take daring flight. Rather, director Carlos Saldanha delivers only kids’-film-certified staples, from slapsticky set pieces and wisecracking sidekicks to a supplementary human romance and a nasty villain in white cockatoo Nigel (Jemaine Clement). Though mercifully light on pop-culture references, the movie is leaden in terms of comedic momentum; while the animation has bounce and kaleidoscopic colorfulness, its character models are as run-of-the-mill as the sporadic musical numbers are superfluous. Too timid to be either inspired or outrageously inept, Rio is merely a bird of a familiar feather.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 13, 2011