It seems to me that it would be difficult to make a sequel to Rio. I’m not sure I would have tried.
Rio is pretty universally loved. It has a 72% critic approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and that’s not too shabby, really. But I thought it a well deserved approval. Rio has heart and story, and it’s quirky and funny. Jesse Eisenberg’s Blu is one of the more lovable animated characters I’ve had the privilege of seeing in recent times. And in fact that voice cast of the entire film absolutely perfect in every conceivable way. You just can’t get any better.
As well, even for an animated musical film, the attention to detail, the choreography, and the writing of the songs were all top notch. I would actually compare the film way up there with some of the better Pixar films. And it has that Pixar like quality of being fun for the kids, but also offering something for the adults as well.
Sequels are Hard
That brief recap brings me to Rio 2 — and I have to say I had a little bit of fun, but a lot of disappointment in the theater last night watching the sequel. Where the plot of the first film felt like it had purpose, this film feels like a slog. I found myself wondering why I cared at all about this story.
Linda and Tulio feel like barely more than an after-thoughts. They are slightly more than that, but just barely.
The plot around the villains feels extremely lazy. Hasn’t the whole “people cutting trees down where they shouldn’t” thing been done to death? I realize that preserving the Rainforest is of concern to us, but really, did we have to rehash an old cliched plot?
And the humor just didn’t live up to the first film. In said first film, it always felt genuine and flowed easily. The humor in this film felt both rushed and forced. It did not flow easily and was not well written.
Relationships are Hard
I expected the whole bit where Blu and Jewel would have a bit of relational struggle because of their wildly different backgrounds and approach to life as illustrated in the first film, but this felt as perfunctory as the villains did. Who didn’t see the drill sergeant dad thing coming? And there’s no real turn around or ah-ha moment for him. For that matter there’s not for any of the characters. I love to see characters develop and I think that especially for an animated film the character development is a crucial component. But it is sorely lacking here.
You can see the skeleton of an idea in the plot — Blu is a city bird, the other birds in the Rainforest who have always hidden from humans despise and look down on him. Yet they need him and he needs them. At least that’s the idea. But in practice it didn’t really pan out. Blu keeps talking about how he knows humans and they need him to defeat the humans. But in the end, all the ends up happening is Blu leads the birds in an air strike against the humans and overpower them simply due to the number of the flock.
I also wanted more between Blu and Jewel. There wasn’t a lot of tension — which sort of surprised me — but I think I wanted more. And I wanted a resolution. I wanted it to be such that they both realize they were being stupid and they are reconciled. Instead, it just ends up being Blu who’s insecure about himself and then just sort of drifts into doing good stuff.
Pooping On the Party
Nigel was also a wasted opportunity. He was absolutely delightful in the first film. And those few times when he’s onscreen here, he is as well. It felt as if he needed a more expanded role.
And as it is, when it comes to the death scene, they writers could not find it in them to kill him off because there might need to be a $equel… again!
Flying High Where The Air is Too Thin
In general it seemed to me that the producers, writers, and/or director felt that what made Rio special was the cool music, the great choreography, and the great CGI. While it is true that all those were good components in the previous film, they are not what made it a great movie. This film relies upon those aspects to be good and fails. The choreography is stunning. The vividness of the colors is breathtaking. But without a good story to back it up, it feels pompous and out of place.
But the film is not utterly devoid of good. Nigel’s Shakespeare bits were solid gold. And Blu with the fanny pack? Priceless.
Kristin Chenoweth performance as Gabi was also outstanding. Her musical numbers were moving and her voice performance in every other way was also great. It was a great call bringing her and her character into the film and works for the film’s benefit.
And despite the fact that I complained earlier about the lack of death in the death scene for Nigel, the plot twist with Gabi not actually being poisonous was pretty fun.
The music was pretty great in this outing as well, which is indeed one of the things that made Rio a fantastic film.
And as before, it is a stunning film and beautifully animated. That alone does make it worth the price of admission.
So yeah, it may be three stars in my estimation, but it probably is worth seeing.