Screenshots were taken from the included DVD edition and do not represent the quality of the Blu-ray.
The first Rio is a colorful, lightweight and not altogether joyless string of pop culture references and celebrity voice talent. This follow-up is more of the same, but I had little patience with round two. Spix's macaws Blu and Jewel, voiced by Jesse Eisenberg and Anne Hathaway, respectively, live in Rio de Janeiro with their three kids. When Blu's former owner, Linda (Leslie Mann), and her husband, Tulio (Rodrigo Santoro), discover spix's macaw feathers in the Amazon, Blu, Jewel and company decide to join the humans in hopes of finding other members of their endangered species. Rio 2 will appeal to the youngest viewers - its target audience - but few others. There is a distinct lack of conflict and narrative drive here, and the half-hazard plot is mostly an excuse to string together a bunch of song-and-dance numbers by musician-cum-actors Bruno Mars and will.i.am. Other than some pretty scenery, Rio 2 offers little for adult viewers over its 101 long minutes.
The story and characters in the original film are nothing special, but that movie at least serves as a sincere tribute to Brazilian culture and music. John Powell is back on the score, which is less topical and more generic than in Rio thanks to an incursion of popular music. Three year olds might love seeing a frog dance to Usher's "Yeah." Me? Not so much. Music plays a heavy hand in Rio 2, which is why I mention it first. Some sort of sing-along or beat underscores nearly the entire film, and returning director Carlos Saldanha seems scared to let his voice actors speak unaccompanied. Black Eyed Pea will.i.am is back as Pedro, a rapping cardinal, and Rio 2 graciously adds R&B crooner Bruno Mars as Roberto, Jewel's self-consumed childhood friend. He's here strictly to play himself, and most of his dialogue is delivered in the doo-wop soprano of his radio hits.
Animated films of late seem to follow one of the following theories of voice talent: find unique, possibly unknown voice actors that fit the roles they play or cram a bunch of famous voices in whether or not they do anything to compliment the characters or narrative. Rio 2 takes the latter track, obviously. You can get lost in the excellent voice work of Up and Frozen (which plays the celebrity card a bit, too), but I never once forgot who I was listening to in Rio 2. Blu? That's Eisenberg playing Jesse Eisenberg. And Jewel is Hathaway, who could be giving an interview in her own tongue with a few minor dialogue tweaks. Mann, George Lopez, Jamie Foxx, Tracy Morgan and Kristin Chenoweth aren't playing characters either; they're speaking as themselves. That may sound like circular logic, but I prefer my voice talent to embody their characters, not simply provide recognizable pipes.
It took four credited writers to concoct the conflict-light plot. Some loggers threaten the spix's macaws' home, and grouchy Cockatoo Nigel (Jermaine Clement) returns to torment Blu and Jewel. None of this carries any heft, and Rio 2 is more concerned with staging the next cutesy jungle shuffle or superficial morality lesson than creating something timeless. Movies like Rio 2 reaffirm my love for the animated films of my youth, like Aladdin and The Lion King, which do more than assault the senses with colorful images. The filmmakers play for the literal lowest common denominator here. Sure, your toddler might be amused, but doesn't he deserve better? His parents certainly do.
Fox's 2.40:1/1080p/AVC-encoded image looks expectedly excellent, with eye-popping, perfectly saturated colors and wonderful, crisply rendered imagery. The blue coats of the spix's macaws explode from the screen, as do the wild colors of the Amazon. Detail is excellent, and I noticed no issues with banding or jagged edges. There is quite a bit of texture and fine-object detail here, too, and you can tell the animators spent a lot more time on the animal protagonists than the human characters and their environments. Black levels are inky, and I noticed no signs of digital tinkering.
The 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix is very impressive, with surround-heavy, immersive effects and nicely balanced dialogue. Effects, score and dialogue are layered appropriately, and the track has nice range. Quiet, dialogue-driven scenes are as impressive as the musical numbers and effects-heavy scenes. The effects, both ambient and action, make full use of the surround speakers, and the sounds of the jungle and action kick-back effects surround the viewer. The subwoofer provides a nice boost to the score, and the music, while grating, never overpowers the dialogue. Alternate 5.1 Dolby Digital tracks are available in a ton of languages: Spanish, French, Portuguese, Bulgarian, Croatian, Greek, Romanian, Serbian, Slovenian and Turkish. Subtitle options are also plentiful: English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Bulgarian, Croatian, Greek, Romanian, Serbian, Slovenian and Turkish.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
This two-disc "combo pack" includes the Blu-ray, a DVD copy of the film and codes to redeem both iTunes-compatible and UltraViolet HD Digital copies. There are a number of lightweight extras: Rio Refresher (3:21/HD) helps you catch up on the story so far. There is one Deleted Scene (0:39/HD) and Boom, Shake, Snap: The Local Sounds of Brazil (19:28/HD), a nice collection of featurettes about the sounds and music of the film. Nigel the Shakespearean Cockatoo and Friends (7:17/HD) also serves as a peek into the Blue Sky animation studios, and Music, Dance, Sing-Along Machine lets kids do the aforementioned actions while watching Rio 2. There are also some parody character auditions, You be the Judge (1:49/HD); a "What is Love" Lyric Video by Janelle Monae (1:37/HD); a Still Gallery; some Theatrical Trailers (4:51/HD); and an "I Will Survive" Multi-Language Sequence (1:58/HD).
I guess I am getting grumpy in my old age. The nonsense that is Rio 2 is clearly made for young children, but I would argue that there are enough quality animated and children-friendly films out there that you can skip phoned-in films like this. Rio 2 expends the charms of its predecessor and is mostly a grating reel of musical performances and distracting voice talent in dire need of a compelling narrative and relatable characters. Skip It.
William lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.