Filled with over saturated, vibrant color, Rio is a visual spectacle to behold. The storyline however is a tired tome that holds the film back from becoming something magical.... Or in other words: Pixar.
Telling the story of a young Blue Macaw (unimaginatively named "Blue"), the film gets off to a promising start with a musical samba reminiscent of the Tiki Room at Disneyland, penned by famed Brazilian Sergio Mendes (you probably have to be of a certain age to have any connection at all to his hit making machine "Brazil 66").
We witness the capture of a fledgling Macaw who is transported for sale to Minnesota where he is taken in by a young girl. The scenes showing their bond and home life are very sweet and humorous, and it's only when the rest of the humans, especially the dorky Brazilian bird expert show up that the film loses a bit of luster.
What drives the story, as the bird expert explains, is that Blue is the last remaining male Blue Macaw and there is only one other of their species left - fortunately a female. This is a bit of a hard fact, and of course is totally glossed over in this feel good film aimed at the under 12 audience - to the point that the villains of the piece are buffoon caricatures who are nowhere near as vile as they should be. I imagine that after this film there was probably a rush at exotic bird stores as the little kiddies wanted a blue of their very own - similar to what happened when 101 Dalmatians was first released... which misses the point entirely.
However, social commentary aside, the film does have some nice points to it, including some hilarious characters - first and foremost a slobbering bulldog voiced by Tracy Morgan. The story also has a villainous bird, with a delightful upper crust Brit accent and a gang of small monkeys who rob tourists of their bright, shiny things. After introducing the monkeys the villainous bird tries to coerce their aid in finding the then missing pair of macaws. When the lead monkey, using a gold watch as a bling belt, asks what's in it for him, the bird snatches him up, high above Christ The Redeemer, and then drops him, casually drifting down as the monkey falls and asking himself rhetorically "gee, what could I offer you in return for your services?" Too funny!
Once the monkeys are on the lookout more hilarity ensues. When one spies the macaws, he whips out a stolen cell phone and texts back to the leader, who is sitting on another cell set to vibrate (uh huh, you got it). When he finally pulls out the cell phone he looks at the screen to see the text: "ooh, ooh, ah, ah" - gotta love it!
The climatic chase scene through Carnival unfortunately involves the humans, and while visually stunning, seems to go on a bit too long (odd in a film with barely an 80 minute run time) - and in the end, well.... What do you expect?
Of course you could do much worse as far as animated "kiddy" type films go, and I'm going to recommend this one for the humorous bits and the beautiful eye candy, though I'm still cringing at the lukewarm, feel good relationships between not only the macaws, but the girl and the bird expert - which fall in direct contrast to the more real, love/hate relationship between the Toucan (voiced by George Lopez) and his wife.