Film Review: Rio 2

Busy sequel to the popular animated feature follows the original's blue macaws on a journey from Rio de Janeiro to an endangered rainforest.

The whole gang's back for Rio 2, a fast, colorful sequel to the 2011 animated hit. They're joined by several new characters and a lot of plot, making this one of the more complicated cartoon narratives around. Youngsters will be fascinated by all the movement; older viewers should get a kick from contributions from a wide range of musical stars.

A bouncy New Year's Eve celebration reintroduces the principals from the first movie. Blu (voiced by Jesse Eisenberg), a blue macaw who was once a pet in Minnesota, has adjusted to life in Rio with his wife Jewel (Anne Hathaway) and three kids (Rachel Crow, Pierce Gagnon and Amandla Stenberg). News that a colony of blue macaws has been found in an Amazon rainforest makes Jewel long for her jungle home.

The neurotic Blu reluctantly agrees to fly the family a thousand miles into the wilderness, counting on a GPS unit to keep them out of trouble. Blu doesn't realize that his mortal enemy, a cockatoo named Nigel (Jemaine Clement), is on his tail, accompanied by a love-struck pink tree frog named Gabi (Kristin Chenoweth) whose skin is poisonous to the touch.

At the end of the journey, Jewel is reunited with her strict father Eduardo (Andy Garcia) and her former boyfriend Roberto (Bruno Mars), leading to several humiliating incidents for the easily intimidated Blu.

Also in the jungle are scientists Linda (Leslie Mann) and Tulio (Rodrigo Santoro), who are fighting malevolent loggers intent on destroying the blue macaw environment. Further problems arise when Blu annoys a rival gang of red macaws, forcing a showdown that's played out in a giant, natural amphitheatre.

3D adds thrills to the macaw competition, but the sequence is topped by a vertiginous chase over waterfalls early in the picture. With so many birds, including toucans, spoonbills, and old friends from the first movie as well as macaws, the animators have a rainbow of colors to draw from. Rio 2 is never less than pretty, and at times—during a montage featuring cutout animation, for example—it's striking.

The various storylines end up competing for attention, pulling Blu from a plot about adapting to Jewel's family to rescuing Linda from mercenaries to battling monkey thieves. Unlike the first Rio, there's no common goal to bind the characters together, and the movie doesn't find an easy or even believable way to its climax.

Eisenberg's Blu is an acquired taste, but he plays out his part as a timid, clueless pet consistently. Hathaway's Jewel gets limited screen time, although she does sing an affecting lullaby. Most of the new characters feel a bit second-hand. Old pro Andy Garcia is convincing as the overbearing Eduardo.

The soundtrack has contributions from Brazilian superstars like Carlinhos Brown and Milton Nascimento, as well as from pop musicians like Bruno Mars, Janelle Monáe and Unfortunately, most of the songs are truncated. The standouts are "Batucada Familia," which lets Garcia try some rap, and a funny update of "I Will Survive" as a duet for Clement and Chenoweth.

Rio 2 can't make up its mind whether it's an environmental tract, bonding exercise, survival trip, or "American Idol" parody. But at least it never stops moving, which should be enough to keep kids entertained.

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