Directed by Carlos Saldanha. Voices by Jake T. Austin, Kristin Chenoweth, Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway, Andy Garcia, Bruno Mars, Jemaine Clement, Jamie Foxx, Will.i.am, George Lopez. (2014, G, 101 min.)
REVIEWED By Louis Black, Fri., April 18, 2014
In this animated sequel, Blu (Eisenberg), Jewel (Hathaway), and their three children think they are the only blue macaws in the whole world until they see some Amazon-jungle footage of probable relatives. They immediately head from their home in Rio to deep in the Amazon basin, where they find a whole flock of blue macaws that turn out to be Jewel’s long-lost family. Jewel, meeting both her father (Garcia) and an old love (Mars), is delighted to be with them in the jungle, while the kids immediately adjust to the ways of the wild. But Blu is a city bird, uncomfortable with the father-in-law and unhappy about the ex. This is the basis of the plot, although if you don’t like that one there are a variety of subplots from which to chose – each with its own set of characters.
The villainous, Shakespearean Nigel (Clement), returning from the original film, leads a smash-up-clever evil trio that includes a tap-dancing anteater and Gabi, the film’s finest character, who’s a poisonous frog voiced by Chenoweth in a way both ridiculous and seductive.
The film is loaded with terrific vocal talents (though they are mostly squandered), and is agog with characters all feverishly working to carry way too much plot. Less a celebration of Brazil, Rio 2 ends up boasting classic and homogenized Las Vegas stage-show aesthetics, featuring regional sounds blended and overwhelmed by current hit-making formulas. Ethnic elements are introduced, neutered, and then Mixmaster-blended into a seamless Hollywood entertainment. Well, actually more an entertainment bursting at the seams. All singing, all dancing, all color: Rio 2 is a modern, studio animation blockbuster spilling all over the place, rather than arching into the sky.