Rio – Blu-ray Edition

Didn’t expect much from this animated feature as I didn’t hear much buzz about it.  The only talk about the film was that young stars Jesse Eisenberg and Anne Hathaway were providing the voices for the two leads.  That’s it.  Maybe because it wasn’t from the giants in animation Pixar or Disney it sorta flew under the radar.  But lo and behold it did well at the box office and stayed in theatres for quite an extended run.  Now my interest was piqued.  I had to see it.  And see it I did on blu-ray.  I was not disappointed.  It was a fun, wild and colourful romp involving birds of all shapes and sizes.  I for one would have never predicted that birds (not my favourite of animals) could be so much fun.

A young blue macaw falls from his nest in the jungles of Rio.  He is grabbed by a seller of exotic animals and shipped to the United States.  Linda Gunderson (Leslie Mann – The Change-Up, The Cable Guy), a young girl, gets the bird and they grow up together.  She has named him Blu (Jesse Eisenberg – The Social Network, Zombieland).  They do everything together.  Blu has a great life except he never learns how to fly.

When they are both older Blu even accompanies Linda to the book store she owns and works at.  It is called The Blue Macaw, of course.

In the middle of winter Dr. Tulio Monteiro (Rodrigo Santoro – Che: Part Two, 300) comes to the store to tell Linda that Blu is the last male of his kind and they have a female in Brazil.  Tulio wants Linda and Blu to come to Rio to save the species.  Linda throws Tulio out of the store.

Linda does end up changing her mind and she and Blu fly to Rio.  At their first meeting Blu thinks the female blue macaw, Jewel (Anne Hathaway – The Princess Diaries, The Devil Wears Prada), is beautiful.  She’s preoccupied with her attempts at escaping.  Jewel also insults Blu by calling him a pet and mocking him for wanting to spend time with a human rather than his own type.

While this is happening, Tulio and Linda go to dinner.  It is interrupted by the news that Jewel and Blu are missing.  Actually, they have been birdnapped with the help of Nigel (Jermaine Clement – from television’s Flight of the Conchords), an evil white cockatiel, and Fernando (Jake T. Austin – Hotel for Dogs), a young orphaned street kid.  The smugglers are going to the two rare blue macaws the next day.

Blu and Jewel manage to escape from their captors, but are chained to one another and being chased by Nigel and two of the smugglers.  Blu’s inability to fly is puzzling to all the birds they meet and a handicap in their escape.

In the jungle Jewel and Blu meet a family of toucans.  The father is named Rafael (George Lopez – The Smurfs, Beverly Hills Chihuahua).  Rafael takes Jewel and Blu to see his friend Luiz (Tracy Morgan – from television’s 30 Rock), who can cut the chain.

Fernando, feeling guilty about what he has done, finds Linda and Tulio to tell them he knows where the birds are.  When they get there the birds are gone, so they have to try and find them before the smugglers do.

Once the chain is cut Blu and Jewel fight and part ways.  Nigel grabs Jewel and is taking her to the parade.  It is carnival time in Rio.  Luiz, Rafael, Nico (Jamie Foxx – Ray, Law Abiding Citizen), and Pedro (Will.i.am – from the Black Eyed Peas) help Blu go after Jewel.

Magic, danger, music, dancing, love helping you conquer your fears, and discovering your true self are all a part of Carlos Saldanha’s (Ice Age, Robots) wonderful film.  Plus it gives the adults watching the film a picturesquel tour of the jungles, mountains of Brazil and the city of Rio.

Voice work in an animated film is paramount and Saldanha has a marvellous cast to work with.  Eisenberg’s voice is now so distinctive that you recognize it immediately and he is the perfect choice for the hesitant and meek flightless blue macaw.  Anne Hathaway brings her usual cuteness and energy to Jewel.  And the supporting voices all add a dimension to their characters.  Especially Jermaine Clement, who is so over-the-top evil, it is fun, fun, fun.  He even has a musical number about how evil he is.

The film almost reminded me of a Broadway musical in that it is always pulsating with rhythm and threatening to break out into song and dance.  Fun!  The music pays tribute to the city of Rio and its famous carnival with bossa nova and funky beats.

Though the story is fairly simple and the ending predictable it is still enjoyable.  Love despite differences is always a winner if done well.

Special Features:
-Explore the World of Rio
-Saving the Species: One Voice at a Time
-The Making of Hot Wings
-Boom-Boom Tish-Tish: The Sounds of Rio
-Carnival Dance-o-Rama
-The Real Rio
-Theatrical Trailer
-Sneak Peeks of Mr. Popper’s Penguins, Million Moments and Hoodwinked Too!
-Deleted Scene – Fruit Stand
-Welcome to Rio Music Video
-Taio Cruz – Telling the World Music Video

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