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‘Rio’ has great harmony with kids

POSTED: April 14, 2011 1:30 a.m.
/20th Century Fox

Linda, voiced by Leslie Mann and Blu, voiced by Jesse Eisenberg, are owner and pet in the kid-friendly adventure movie "Rio."

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Going to "Rio" is an experience as diverse as rainforest foliage. The movie is fun enough, but the trip begins with some egregious, loathsome marketing.

The movie itself opens with a kaleidoscopic flight through the Brazilian jungle, where all the birds wake up and immediately begin to sing and dance in airborne choreography worthy of Busby Berkeley. All except one, that is.

A young blue macaw dances in his nest but crashes to the ground when he tries to fly. His wings aren’t quite ready. The joyous morning ends abruptly anyway when smugglers suddenly cage most of the birds and ship them off to America to be sold as exotic pets.

But the little macaw never reaches the pet store because the box he is in falls off the truck onto a snowy Minnesota street. A young girl named Linda rescues him and names him Blu, and a montage shows Linda and Blu growing up as best friends.

Fast forward. Grown-up Linda (Leslie Mann) and Blu (Jesse Eisenberg) lead a comfortable life of routine, except Blu never did learn to fly.

Suddenly and inexplicably, a Brazilian ornithologist, Tulio (Rodrigo Santoro), shows up at Linda’s bookstore claiming that Blu is one of the last of his endangered species. (How did he find Blu?) Tulio needs Linda and Blu to come to Rio de Janeiro to mate Blu with a feisty female macaw named Jewel (Anne Hathaway).

Linda and Blu arrive in Rio just as Carnival is beginning, then Blu is promptly abducted (again) by another group of exotic bird smugglers.

"Rio" then becomes a road trip/chase/coming of age tale/love story. Linda and Tulio search for their macaws. Blu and Jewel try to elude their captors, especially Nigel (Jemaine Clement), the smugglers’ ruthless cockatoo henchman. Blu and Jewel get help from new bird friends Nico (Jamie Foxx), Pedro (Will i Am), Rafael (George Lopez) and others.

Oh, and everyone learns lessons.

It would be easy to think like a critic and pluck this one apart. The story offers no surprises, the jokes are mediocre, and Blu’s inability to fly develops exactly as you expect. The leads are voiced by two young actors of the moment, who are supported by a mixture of brand-named comedians and musicians.

It’s just another by-the-numbers family movie, distinguished only by its incredibly catchy music and extravagant color palette.

However, my 6-year-old would give you a completely different review.

He (and his mom, actually) bounced to the music and giggled the whole time. Afterward, he declared it his "favorite movie ever" and has been singing the songs for days. He can’t wait to see it again.

Obviously, "Rio" is made for kids and not critics. It doesn’t try nearly as hard as most family movies to appeal to adults and children equally, and I’m fine with that.

Younger children will probably love this movie.

Where my son and I agree completely, though, is on the commercial affront that precedes the movie.

Once the official movie program begins, any trailers are supposed to advertise movies. But Fox is currently pushing its new Simon Cowell show, "The X-Factor," so we were pummeled by not one, but two advertisements for that show, with another Fox television add sandwiched between.

When the second ad started, my son said, "Seriously? Again?" (His parents were proud.)

Then we were "treated" to a new short featuring Scrat from the "Ice Age" movies. This is the worst thing Scrat has appeared in. None of the gags are clever or original (Scrat inadvertently causes geologic change again?). It’s just Scrat screaming maniacally for several minutes in an unimaginative, transparent advertisement for next year’s "Ice Age: Continental Drift."

This obnoxious, off-putting short is also a completely inappropriate introduction to "Rio," which is melodic, visually dazzling and thoroughly inviting.

Take your young ones to "Rio," but be prepared to tune out all the offensive poppycock beforehand.

Jeff Marker is a media studies professor at Gainesville State College.



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