Rio 2 (2014)

Review first published by Film4

Synopsis: A family of rare blue macaws discovers it is a little less endangered in this animated, Amazon-set sequel from the makers of Ice Age.

Review: Learning that they may not be the last blue Spix’s Macaws left on the planet, Blu (voiced by Jesse Eisenberg), his partner Jewel (Anne Hathaway), and their three children head to a remote part of the Amazon in search of their long lost kin – joined by their avian friends, pursued by vengeful cockatoo Nigel (Jemaine Clement), and threatened by a group of illegal loggers.

In the post-Avatar cinematic ecology, big studio family entertainments inevitably come at viewers in high-end 3D. Yet while Carlos Saldanha’s original Rio (2011) already offered stereoscopic spectacle, its sequel is indebted to Avatar in other respects too. For it parrots James Cameron’s eco-formula by pitting soaring-and-swooping blue natives against resource-hungry, machine-piloting invaders in hyper-aestheticised junglescapes, while allowing a male outsider to become gradually assimilated into the local tribe. Indeed, apart from its opening sequence, Rio 2 is not even set in Rio.

With Blu very much a domesticated bird, there is plenty of neurotic misfit comedy, as well as surreal interspecies romance, a midair version of Brazil’s favourite game of two halves, and even a let’s-put-on-a-show subplot with much forgettable singing and dancing – although this is all as much fish-in-a-barrel as fish-out-of-water. Most of the gags wildly misfire (emblematised early on when Blu becomes accidentally attached to a firecracker), and the puerile poo jokes sit oddly with the material devoted to anxiety-ridden metrosexual fathers. In short, Rio 2‘s riot of pretty colours is matched by a mess of half-formed ideas.

“We’re not people, we’re birds!” runs Jewel’s pitch for returning to the flock. “We do not bring humans into the tribe,” Jewel’s buzzcut-sporting father will later say, “You cannot be confused about this.” Yet the film’s anthropomorphised animals constantly confuse this, denaturing the environmental message.

In A Nustshell: The animation is pretty to look at, but this jumbled jungle of half-witted ideas and half-cocked jokes is strictly for the brazil nuts.