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'Rio 2' lackluster in substance and scope

By Helen Fu
On April 14, 2014

It is hard these days for animated movies outside of the Disney-Pixar monolith to succeed; other studios like Dreamworks may produce a hit once every couple of years, but far too often their attempts simply don't do as well. "Rio," a feature released by 20th Century Fox three years ago, had been one of the few exceptions by making the company quite a lot of money and achieving a fair amount of acclaim for its simple yet poignant storytelling and catchy music.
Of course, this meant that Fox absolutely had to release a sequel. "Rio 2" is bigger, brighter and most definitely a plug for the upcoming World Cup in Brazil, but none of these things mean that the film is quality. Wayward Spix's macaw Blu (voiced by Jesse Eisenberg) returns for a second adventure, this time dealing with the brave new world of fatherhood-after the conclusion of the previous movie, he's married fellow endangered bird Jewel (Anne Hathaway) and procreated. While accompanying their owners Linda and Tulio on an expedition, they discover a hidden colony of Spix's macaws. Comedic drama ensues as Blu's neurotic tendencies and over-reliance on humanity clashes with his wife and children, who seem to thrive in nature.
This would seem like an intriguing tale, but "insecure dad learns to let loose" has been a veritable hallmark for animated movies ever since the success of "Finding Nemo." Moreover, this is essentially a retread for the characters-the original "Rio" movie had been about how Blu navigates between his status as an endangered species and the fact that he's essentially a house pet. Eisenberg does his best and the visuals of the rainforest are certainly excellent, but unfortunately this does little to distract the audience from the recycled material.
In fact, even the writers of "Rio 2" don't seem to expect the audience to care about Blu's woes, because the movie is packed with other distractions. The comic sidekicks in the previous movie make utterly unnecessary returns and even the old villainous cockatoo Nigel receives a subplot when a tree frog (played by Kristin Chenoweth) falls in love with him. While these characters-particularly Chenoweth's-certainly provide the movie with some laughs, they contribute nothing to the overarching story as a whole and make the movie feel even more messy and obnoxious.
"Rio" succeeded, largely because it never tried to be more than what it seemed, sticking to a straightforward plot that told an effective but restrained message on the importance of endangered protection. "Rio 2," on the other hand, is all over the place-alternatively preaching the importance of conservation and setting up outrageous situations that bring little entertainment due to how telegraphed everything is. There is nothing subtle or substantial to the movie, and in the end it is little more than a shallow, artificial cash grab that does not live up to its potential.

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