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As the song goes, ďI believe I can fly, I believe I can touch the sky.Ē  Well, Blu doesnít. The blue macaw is a resident of Minnesota, USA, happily domesticated by his adoring human, Linda, and without a thought or need to take wing.  The pair is so well-matched; their self-imposed social isolation doesnít seem like a bad thing.  The safe contentment of their daily routine together goes through a major upheaval when a weird bird-brain enters the picture.  Ornithologist Tulio has been looking for the macaw, explaining that Blu is the last male of his kind and a mate has been found for him.  With a trip to the Rio homeland he was stolen from as a baby, Blu might be able to save his own species.  Though worried and dubious, Linda thinks of the bigger picture and the pair step way out of their comfort and climate zones for the sunny shores of Brazil.  Bluís meeting with his intended, Jewel, the beautiful macaw captured in the wild for the sake of rebreeding, doesnít exactly go smoothly.  Feisty Jewel does not appreciate being kept prisoner and is bemused by Bluís meekness and refusal to escape with her.  One prison gives way to another after a poacher manages to steal both rare birds from the conservatory and this time escape is imperative, but thereís that whole I-donít-fly problem of Bluís.  Bluís inability to do what most birds are born to do grounds Jewel as well, and the pair must run chained at the leg through the city streets, hoping to find a way out of their bond and back to their respective homes.

From the opening sequence, where a birdís-eye perspective overlooking Rio de Janeiro flies into a raucous jungle samba exploding with the blinding colours of the birds of the Amazon, Rio has us in its charming grip.  The visuals of Rio are dazzling and the music is outstanding.  The filmís details; whether on Copacabana beach, hang-gliding down Corcovado mountain past the towering Christ the Redeemer statue, in the crowded favelas with their corrugated rooftops, or in the eye-exploding midst of colour and light that is Carnaval, make Rio is a gorgeous thing to see.  Our story of the two birds that need to get to their homes is a sweet one that works on many levels as one of those birds doesnít really know where his home is.  Along the way Blu and Jewel must escape their enemies, including a vain, monstrous cockatoo that has no compunction about selling out his fellow bird, and the pair makes many new friends who help Blu find not only what makes living in Rio so wonderful, but what makes life itself worth living.

Rio de Janeiro-born director Carlos Saldanha brings Brazilian music legend, Sergio Mendes in to create much of the music which is such an integral part of the film.  When Blu is an infant, it is the beat of the samba that first rouses his interest in the world and then later at a wonderful Carnaval party scene it is what also begins to lift his heart to remember that he is a wild, free creature.  It also helps him to overcome his differences with the disdainful Jewel, who cannot relate to this creature so like her but from outer space Ö or Minnesota.

Jesse Eisenberg voices the neurotic Blu perfectly, which I guess means you canít get away from typecasting even in a cartoon.  The eternally perky Anne Hathway is a wonderful fit as the courageous Jewel.  It was a welcome surprise to hear her underused singing pipes harmonising in a few scenes over the infectious samba.  Jemaine Clement is the gross, venal cockatoo, Nigel, who gives us a clever tune about his fall from beloved bird star to ugly, old poacher.  George Lopez, will i. am and Jamie Foxx provide the funny as feathered friends who try to help Blu to escape, then get his groove back.  Leslie Mann is sweet as Bluís bird mommy, Linda, and Brazilian sex symbol Rodrigo Santoro plays it extremely silly as the wacky ornithologist.  The variation of accents was a bit distracting; with the exception of Rio-born Santoro, none of the other Brazilian characters have any sort of Portuguese accent.  Messrs. am and Foxx, Mlle. Hathaway and Tracy Morgan as a helpful bulldog with a salivary gland problem sound distinctly American, though Iím sure this bothers the target demo for the film not at all.  While weíre on the subject of the doggie drool, wow, is there a lot of it.  In a lowering of the scriptís bar to the more gross-out humour that Hollywood seems to think is catnip to little kids, the nearly-unwatchable abundance of spit dripping, looming and flying from the bulldogís jowls actually become part of the story.  Before then, some slapstick and burly characters turned out in gold lamť for Carnaval is about as silly as it gets and the majority of the filmís humour is clever enough to entertain children and adults.

In the end, itís the combination of the filmís fun script, excellent soundtrack and the beauty of its stunning visuals that make Rio a standout.  Exuberant and full of life, music and colour as the city for which itís named, director Carlos Saldanhaís animated love letter to Rio will delight the entire family.

 

~ The Lady Miz Diva

April 15th, 2011

 

 

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Photos

(Courtesy of  20th Century Fox)

 

 

 

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