Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Flight Time

It was Rio 2 that was playing in theaters earlier this year, but I only recently got around to watching the original 2011 animated film. As I imagine many parents out there know, Rio is the story of a citified bird who becomes separated from his owner during a trip to (duh) Rio de Janeiro. He winds up shackled to a free-spirited wild bird yearning to return the jungle, and adventure ensues.

This movie came from Blue Sky Studios, the animation company that hit upon Ice Age and proceeded to churn out sequels ad nauseum. In some ways, Rio shows a similar lack of originality -- it plays very familiar story beats of the well-worn "opposites attract" genre. But while the plot maybe doesn't receive much attention, the characters do, and that helps elevate the film above average.

The voice cast also helps a lot. Jesse Eisenberg's stock in trade is his ability to play an uptight social misfit, and it's put to good use here as Blu, the sheltered bird forced out of his element. Anne Hathaway is strong as Jewel, his more adventurous (forced) companion. Leslie Mann and Rodrigo Santoro voice a pair of humans whose relationship mirrors the birds. And then, rounding out the comedy, is an eclectic list of names including Jemaine Clement, George Lopez,, Jamie Foxx, Tracy Morgan, Wanda Sykes, and Jane Lynch.

The jokes aren't generally laugh out loud, and the story isn't especially great... yet there is a strong sense of FUN permeating the entire film. The filmmakers seemed to aspire to something that the parents of their target audience wouldn't mind watching, and I do think they mostly got there. I give it a B-. The recent sequel hasn't rocketed to the top of my list after seeing this one, but it has found its way into the queue.

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