Rio 2 offers everything children loved about the first film … and more. So much more, in fact, that children and parents alike may cry, “enough” while cheering on the sights and sounds.
Sequels routinely overwhelm audiences, but the “Rio” franchise doesn’t need sensory overload. It’s already brimming with musical numbers, wacky sidekicks and a protagonist who is equal parts hero and wallflower.
It all works as advertised once more, and every new character is given a chance to prove they belong. The film simply won’t stop slathering on subplots, and the result is a joyous but exasperating affair.
Our rare bird Blu (Jesse Eisenberg) kept busy between films, siring three children with Jewel (Anne Hathaway). When they learn their human pals Linda and Tulio (Leslie Mann, Rodrigo Santoro) have found more of their bird species in the Amazon they decide to meet their long-lost kin.
Meanwhile the evil Nigel (a fabulous Jemaine Clement) is plotting revenge against Blu, and Blu’s family is about to run into a band of illegal loggers.
Lost yet? You haven’t met Jewel’s stern papa (Andy Garcia) or Nigel’s besotted galpal (Kristin Chenoweth, who sings a “Frozen” worthy show-stopper mid-film). And what about Roberto, the bird who poses a romantic threat for Blu? Could Jewel be stolen by a bird who sings just like Bruno Mars? Let’s not forget Carla, the oldest of Blu’s children given plucky voice by Colorado’s own Rachel Crow.
Rio 2 squeezes in some adult-friendly life lessons between the story line parade. “Happy wife, happy life,” is Blu’s mantra when trying to do right by his lady love. We’re also told to honor the rainforest and sacrifice for our families when events demand it. Bravery matters, particularly when our loved ones are threatened, and leaving one’s comfort zone is essential for keeping a marriage strong.
Children will lap up the soundtrack, a savvy blend of hip-hop, pop and Brazilian beats. They’ll also giggle at a joke involving a “self-made” Jacuzzi, but parents should know that’s the extent of the potty humor. Easily frightened ones may cower during a dream sequence involving Nigel, but the rest of the story is suitable for general audiences.
Today’s animated movies fuse jokes meant for parents with goofy sight gags. In Rio 2, Blu can’t part with his GPS and fanny pack, while comic cutups Pedro and Nico (will.i.am, Jamie Foxx) supply the slapstick. Parents rarely grin while paying more for those 3-D glasses, but the film takes advantage of that third dimension now and then.
Hathaway’s role is frustratingly small, and when she wraps her gorgeous voice around a lullaby to help her kids sleep you’ll wish the film took greater advantage of those Oscar-certified pipes.
For all the fine feathered high jinks there’s also a serious message about the tug between family and familiarity, a lesson easily lost in our culture. Kin matters, and while Garcia’s patriarch isn’t the warm and fuzzy type, he represents a connection to the past that grounds Rio 2 in ways that will win skeptical parents over.
Christian Toto is an award-winning film critic whose reviews can be heard on “The Mike Rosen Show” on 850 KOA. He is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association and co-chairs the Denver Film Critics Society.