'Rio' is the latest CG animated movie in a long line of CG animated movies to try and distract its viewers with colorful animation so they don't focus on the flimsy plot. I'm not saying that a movie specifically geared towards kids has to have an intricate plot, but it's got to have some depth. Ever since the founding of Pixar, we've been inundated with one CG animated feature after another. Some of them have heart and soul, others don't. 'Rio' lands somewhere in the middle. It isn't on the same level as 'Up' or 'How to Train Your Dragon', but it does hold its own better than say 'Gnomeo & Juliet'.
Blu (Jesse Eisenberg) is a rare blue Macaw. Thought to be the last known male in existence. He was found, abandoned, at a young age by Linda (Leslie Mann). Together they created a human-bird duo where the bird acts much more human than possible – fixing toast, drinking hot chocolate, and creating secret handshakes that end in make believe explosions. Blu's just fine with his pet-like existence. He never learned how to fly, but he doesn't care. Life is good.
Then a scientist named Tulio (Rodrigo Santoro) walks through the door and announces that Blu needs to come to Rio to mate with the last known female (Anne Hathaway) of his species. Linda relents, and it's off to Rio for a few poppy hip-hop songs, wise-talking animal friends, a bit of danger, and a happy-go-lucky resolution.
There's not much to 'Rio' at all. It's your standard journey home type story all the while the two main characters are being pursued by greedy gangsters who want to sell them.
Jesse Eisenberg is the wrong choice here. His comedic timing depends so much on his mannerisms. He's funny in 'Zombieland' because of how he squirms and reacts to certain situations. Stick him in a sound booth and he loses most of what makes him fun to watch. 'Rio' is another animated Fox movie where Fox believes that sticking a bunch of names on the case will help sell it. Kids don't know (and most adults won't care) if George Lopez is voicing someone in your movie. Who cares that they got Jane Lynch, Wanda Sykes, Will i Am, Jamie Foxx, and Tracy Morgan to take on bit parts? I don't think anyone does. Especially not the kids who will be watching it.
'Rio's song choices are chosen because of their popularity, and catchiness, not necessarily because they're good tunes. Most of the songs here will be instantly dated in two to three years. None of them will remain in our heads as classic musical fare. Except maybe the song sung by a molting, ugly cockatoo voiced by Jemaine Clement ('Flight of the Conchords') whose casting in this movie is the only one that makes any sense. I wouldn't be surprised if he actually wrote it. It's a clever, funny song, and just about the only scene in the whole movie that is geared more toward an adult audience. 'Rio' is also another one of those animated movies that has no idea how to actually end their movie so they throw another song and dance number at you as the credits roll.
'Rio' is bright, colorful, and full of lush animation. The humans look a bit off-putting, but the rest of the movie is very lushly animated. I was actually surprised that it looked so well done. Still, looks only go so far, and when you have a by-the-numbers story as the foundation it's hard to not become stagnant.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Rio' comes in a three disc combo pack. A 50GB Blu-ray houses the feature film. There's also a DVD copy of the film and a separate disc for the Digital Copy. It's all packaged in a normal Blu-ray case, with a swinging arm in the middle that holds two discs back-to-back with another disc hub located on the inside of the back cover. The release is said to be region free.
Well, I'm not sure what I can really say here other than 'Rio' is perfect in every conceivable way. The film's animation is some of the best that's come from Fox. It's beautifully colored, and provides a realistic, charming look at Rio and its surrounding areas.
Colors are so bright and so vivid that you'll have to use this as demo material. The panning shots, as the camera zooms around Rio and its famous Christ the Redeemer statue, look stunning. Simply stunning. There's a scene towards the end where a bunch of birds burst out of an airplane and fill the sky with all kinds of colors from dark reds and electric greens, to jet blacks and watery blues. Clarity is top-notch. There's no surpassing the sharpness and refinement going on here. The animation is so finely detailed that it's easy to see the individual strands on each of the birds' feathers as they ruffle them.
This is perfection. Demo material through and through. Blu-ray shows that, once again, well done CG animation is its best friend. Everyone should be happy to show this one off.
'Rio's 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is almost as impressive as the visuals. It doesn't stack up to the more nuanced mixes of 'Monsters Inc.' or 'Wall-e', but it does find a great balance with all the sambas they're doing.
The pop-music filled soundtrack is piped through each and every channel. The rear channels offer a bevy of action; birds cawing, people cheering, and the everyday foot traffic of a busy Rio street. Dialogue is always intelligible even during the craziest, most intense action scenes. Panning effects work smoothly as birds and planes zoom from channel to channel.
LFE is constantly present drumming through the musical numbers, and pounding when the sounds of Carnival become increasingly louder. Prioritization and directionality are both handled with care. While 'Rio' may lack a more nuanced sound design – mostly because it's bashing you over the head with one catchy pop song after another – it still will please many audiophiles with its ability to showcase the great sound of a huge Brazilian party.
'Rio' is okay if you're looking for a movie to plop your kids in front of and hope they become distracted by the bright, flashing colors. Kids will most likely love 'Rio's silliness, but that same silliness may put parents to sleep. There's little here that will allow parents to enjoy the movie along with their kids, which is a real shame. Still the audio and video are simply stunning and there's a wide variety of extras to search through. Even though I'm not a big fan of the movie itself I'm still recommending 'Rio' mostly because of its amazing demo-worthy look and sound.
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.