Two inept vaudevillians (Bing Crosby, Bob Hope) stow away on a Brazilian-bound ocean liner and foil a plot by a sinister hypnotist to marry off her niece to a greedy fortune hunter.
"You'll never work in Rio again!"
"Who wants to work? We're musicians!"
There's nothing quite like a great comedy duo. The classic straight man played against the manic comedian is the perfect combination to get folks laughing. Abbott and Costello, Martin and Lewis, Alien and Predator (just kidding!) were pitch perfect comedic duos that starred in movies that showcased their best talents. Then you have Bob Hope and Bing Crosby whose skills as song and dance men as well as comedians put their antics on a strong cinematic footing with their seven Road films. For 1947's Road to Rio, their fifth collaboration, Hope and Crosby find themselves as stowaways on a steamer ship to Brazil.
When you've been run out of every town, it's a good idea to take to the high seas. For Scat Sweeney (Bing Crosby) and his song and dance show partner, Hot Lips Barton (Bob Hope) money is easy to come by, but Sweeney's got a soft spot for sad dames and always ends up giving away their cash. After their last show leaves a carnival in flames, Sweeney and Barton find themselves on a steamer ship to Rio. After all, what could possibly go wrong on a boat way out in the middle of the ocean? Plenty, as it turns out. When the pair get caught up with a young woman named Lucia (Dorothy Lamour) who is being hypnotized into marriage by her Aunt (Gale Sondergaard), Sweeney and Barton are in for more trouble than they bargained for!
As with most of the Road films featuring Hope and Crosby, the plot is a bit on the light side for Road to Rio. Even as the longest of the seven films at 100-minutes, the film's plot is pretty paper thin and instead fills the space with great gags and several song and dance numbers. Under the direction of Norman Z. McLeod the film - and many of the gags - have more than a passing resemblance to McLeod's previous directing effort 1931's Monkey Business featuring the Marx Brothers. Small details may be different, but the nuts and bolts of the show feel a bit routine. Not to say that is a bad thing. While there's no denying the ounce or two of familiarity, the fast-talking song and dance antics of Bob Hope and Bing Crosby keep things feeling fresh and fun.
A big reason Crosby and Hope were such a great partnership boils down to the simple fact that either one of them could be the goofball or the straight man. Both had terrific comedic timing and neither was relegated to being just the angry foil to be the butt of the joke. Toss on their combined song and dance routines and their assortment of films became pure fun. There isn't anything too heady or heavy going on here. Just simple setups for great payoffs. This simplicity is what keeps Road to Rio a lively and fun romp to roll through. Toss on a few extra inside jokes - a number of references to Crosby's failed stable of race horses are especially entertaining.
It had been a long time since I'd seen one of the Road movies. I remember my dad renting a few of them when I was a kid, but my memories have smashed them all together. With that, I don't think I ever saw Road to Rio prior to this review so it was a good fun clean reintroduction to the comedic wit of Bob Hope and Bing Crosby. While the film is a ton of fun throughout, it also features a nice assortment of guest appearances. In addition to their stalwart lady companion Dorothy Lamour, such famous faces as Nestor Paiva, George Meeker, and the big man himself - Tor Johnson all get a good moment to shine. This film also features the final screen appearance of the Andrews Sisters doing a nice little number with Bing. Road to Rio is a perfect fit for a great night of entertainment.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Road to Rio arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Kino Lorber through their Studio Classics label. Pressed onto a Region A Blu-ray disc, the disc is housed in a standard sturdy Blu-ray case and comes with a booklet containing cover artwork for other Kino Lorber Studio Classics releases. The disc loads directly to a static image main menu.
It's difficult to tell when this 1.33:1 1080p transfer for Road to Rio was minted, but it had to have been relatively recently. Featuring fine film grain, detail levels range from adequate to very strong depending on the shot. There are a few baked in soft shots here and there and there are a couple of rough looking sequences, but overall facial features, costuming, and the production values of this song and dance comedy show are apparent. The film's grayscale is very good featuring some inky blacks with great shadow separation. Unfortunately, depth isn't very apparent at times as many scenes - even ones that are brightly lit - can appear flat. The print sourced for this transfer is in pretty fantastic shape. The opening is a little rough with some speckling and a few scratches but once that's out of the way, the rest of the show evens out with only negligible speckling apparent. Some slight jitter appears at the beginning as well, but again, disappears quickly.
Road to Rio comes with a solid English DTS-HD MA 2.0 mix. Dialogue and music are given plenty of heft for this release as they're the film's primary assets. Everything is clearly heard throughout without any kind of interference. Sound effects are serviceable, they're really only there to set the mood with only a few flourishes during the carnival routine and during the song and dance interludes. Crowd sounds work well to give these moments a nice sense of atmosphere. Levels are pitch perfect so once you have the volume set comfortably, you won't have to worry about it again. Free of any serious age-related issues or hiss, this is a terrific audio mix.
Sadly, no real bonus features have been assembled for this release. What is included is a trailer collection for Kino Lorber Studio Classics's upcoming releases of various Bob Hope pictures.
Also From KLSC (HD 4:17)
When you have the combined efforts of Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, you can count on a great time. Road to Rio, the pair's fifth film in the long-running series, just happens to be damn funny stuff. Even with a simple plot, Hope and Crosby mine some comedy gold. Kino Lorber Studio Classics has done a great job bringing this film to Blu-ray with a strong A/V presentation that will delight fans. Sadly, no bonus features have been assembled for this release. Even without the inclusion of any bonus content, I'm still going to call Road to Rio recommended. It's too much fun to not encourage folks to give it a try.