MFR Rating: ★ ★
Rango. A Turtle’s Tale. Hop. Rio. The Easter holidays. The digimation market is saturated and its cute and cuddly animals are coming to a screen near you. Splash some colour, get some A-list names to provide second-rate voice overs and take your pick of any animals which haven’t been used in a while and you’re in for a sure fire hit. Oh, and add some clunky retro-fitted 3D while you’re at it and the kids will go crazy.
Now it’s the turn of the Blue Macaw to take centre stage in Blue Sky Studios’ latest output following the success of their Ice Age franchise. A frantic opening of swooping birds and Blu (voiced by Jesse Eisenberg) the Macaw’s journey from wildness to Minnesotan domestication is followed by a collage of photographs showing the relationship between Blu and his owner Linda (Leslie Mann) as Linda ages and remains equally attached to her beloved bird. Mirrors of the opening of Pixar’s Up are clearly intentional, which showed the life of a husband and wife in a beautiful 4 and half minute montage, before the wife’s death. But here the parallels end. Whilst ‘Up’ allowed 4 and a half minutes for us to wholly empathize and understand the relationship between the characters, Rio provides us with a snappy 20 seconds of poignancy. The story continues with Blu being taken to mate with a female Macaw (Anne Hathaway) in Brazil, with bird foreplay offering some slightly surreal moments for its family audience.
And then BAM.
The pace never gives up. Following Blu’s inadvertent escape, climatic cliff-hangers, mid-air collisions and chases from bad guys ensue. Oh, and there’s singing. With Jamie Foxx and the perpetually obnoxious will.i.am amongst the cast, such vocal talents do not go to waste, unless of course you’re in the audience. ‘Rio’ is like an explosion of noise, everything is cranked up to maximum and the music, action and suspense refuse to give way and allow the film to breathe. Headaches ensue, not least because of the eye-poppingly crass use of 3D.
Now, I should come clean. I am not a fan of 3D. I am yet to be any more ‘immersed’ by the 3D experience than I am watching a good 2D film. But this has to stop. This film would be produced in 3D, and the director was only too aware of it. The constant barrage of recklessly flying birds cascading towards the audience is annoying, tedious and repetitive. Following the 3D release of Toy Story 3 I wondered whether we may have got past the “pokey pokey” gimmick of 3D animation. At least with Toy Story you quickly forgot it was a 3D release (although whether it had any purpose is a different question), but with Rio the director is screaming: “YOU ARE WATCHING A 3D MOVIE ISN’T THIS COOL”. When a film seems to be going at 30 cuts a minute, there is no way the average human brain can process 3D effects, leaving the audience feeling like they’ve experienced a mush of light and movement, but no images. Furthermore, for a film that should be bright and fueled by the Brazilian spirit, 3D’s 30% colour loss never looks more apparent.
Humour is fairly slapstick but at least the film doesn’t suffer the laziness of providing two levels of jokes. But instead, it’s all rather inane. Whilst there’s probably enough to keep kids entertained there is little subtlety for adults to enjoy. With so much digimation occupying this pool of mediocrity, it is a wonder how much repetition of fast paced set pieces and animal related amusement even the most ADD kid can tolerate.
There’s a decent little film in here. A Brazilian Macaw that can’t fly with Jessie Eisenburg’s awkward, timid voice-over is a classic underdog story waiting to take shape. A Macaw lost in strange surroundings without the comfort of a much-loved owner should provide a chance for melancholy and fright. But such emotions are never given a chance to flourish and the film never quite finds its wings. Sadly, there is nothing memorable or endearing about this film, which will be quickly forgotten along with all of Easter’s animal-mation frenzies.
Rio is officially released on 8 April in the UK and 15 April in the USA
Review by David Rank