(NEW YORK) -- The first Rio movie was a colorful, uplifting, foot-tapping, heartfelt surprise hit. The 2011 release grossed just under half-a-billion dollars -- which these days, means: SEQUEL!
Three years later, Jesse Eisenberg’s Spix’s Macaw, Blu, is back, and he and fellow Macaw Jewel (Anne Hathaway) now have three kids. They believe they're the last five Spix’s Macaws left on the planet. But they're wrong.
When their humans, Tulio (Rodrigo Santoro) and Linda (Leslie Mann), discover there may be more Spix’s Macaws, Blu and family decide to investigate. But they'll encounter more than a few obstacles, including the killer bird Nigel (Jemaine Clement) from the original Rio, and a developer, voiced by Miguel Ferrer, who wants to knock down the rainforest and build stuff.
Turns out the Macaws that Tulio and Linda discovered are the flock to which Jewel belonged, which is led by her father. Also in that flock is Roberto (voiced by singer Bruno Mars), a handsome and athletic Macaw with whom Jewel played as a child. Roberto is the complete opposite of Blu, who quickly becomes jealous and alienated by a jungle culture he can’t relate to because he was a domesticated “pet.” That background is the very reason Jewel’s father dislikes Blu.
If all this sounds familiar, it may be because the storyline is intentionally influenced by the comedy Meet the Parents: Fox has even used the phrase “Meet the Flockers” in its marketing campaign. It's clearly an effort to pander to the adults, and it doesn’t always work.
What does work is the relationship between the dastardly Nigel and Gabi (Kristin Chenoweth), who plays an adorable, yet poisonous frog in love with Nigel. Gabi and Nigel even get their own show-stopping singing number, “Poisonous Love,” which isn’t only adorable, it leaves you wanting more. These two could be worthy of their own movie. Outside of Gabi, the new characters aren’t nearly as endearing, while returning characters Nico (Jamie Foxx), Rafael (George Lopez), Pedro (will.i.am), and Luiz (Tracy Morgan) feel underutilized here.
Despite its lackluster plot being a drag for adults, Rio 2 does have a great message about love and acceptance, which is something most any parent will want their kids to see. Your kids also will be dancing in the aisles to the catchy, up-tempo soundtrack, all while learning about the rainforest. In other words, your children will love Rio 2, and you won’t hate it.
Three out of five stars.
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