11 April 2011

RIO- Review

Can we change the name of Orange's "Gold Spot", in which a 20th Century Fox film gets some rampant phone-related plugging for about six months at a time before every single film in the multiplex? Thus far, we've had The A-Team and Gulliver's Travels there, so I was lobbying for the "Brown Spot". However, as annoying as the ads for Rio have been before every single film, it turns out they just indicate how shit Orange are at making cinema ads nowadays. Where did Mr. Dresden go anyhoo?

The film itself follows Blu, a rare blue macaw who lives in Minnesota with his owner Linda. It turns out he's so rare that he's actually the last male of his species, and he must go to sweltering Rio de Janeiro to mate with Jewel, the last female blue macaw. Unfortunately, the two birds barely even get on with one another, much less wanting to actually get it on, even to save their species.

This is a plot that was apparently central in last year's Alpha and Omega, but more prominently, Pixar were developing an almost identical film in Newt, which got cancelled last year. So Orange has been trailering the film for what feels like years, and it's also usurped whatever the genius minds at Pixar were getting up to. That was more than enough to lower my expectations to subterranean levels, so it's pleasing that Rio actually turned out to be quite entertaining.

Contrary to the poorly dubbed Gold Spot ads, there's some good voice acting to be had, which is always a good start for a CG animation. Jesse Eisenberg and Anne Hathaway effectively do Woody Allen and Diane Keaton in their vocal roles as Blu and Jewel. Eisenberg reprises his pre-Social Network nervy schtick rather than his cold and superior Mark Zuckerburg, but it's Hathaway who manages better with the musical numbers.

Yep, musical numbers. Happily, they're not like Dreamworks musical numbers, that just deploy whatever song is cleared for the soundtrack, but actually a fair few original numbers mixed in amongst the obligatory covers. The highlight is the great villain song, performed by Jemaine Clement's rather brilliantly voiced villain, a psychotic cockatoo called Nigel. As a fan of good villain songs, it worked for me as both a parody and an iteration of the old trope.

The story itself is not revolutionary, falling somewhere between the Buzz subplot in Toy Story and the relocation gubbins in Madagascar, but then what can you expect from a story that was independently thunk up by three different animation companies? I can tell you though it's sweetly executed though, with amusing characters and enjoyable visuals.

The cartoonish vistas of Blue Sky's Ice Age movies give way to slightly more realistic-looking forestry here, but there's still room for big colourful backdrops and nicely designed characters. That said, two lazily characterised supporting characters, voiced by Jamie Foxx and will.i.am, really grated on me, and there's a weird bit in the middle where we briefly get an army of Capuchin monkeys for reasons that don't particularly serve the plot. It's like the film lost all self-confidence for about 20 minutes and said "Hey, monkeys are funny, right?"

Let's always remember that studios compile trailers and marketing, not the filmmakers, and there are often films that are a lot better than their trailers would suggest. Rio is one of those films where all the stuff that looks bad about the trailer is, at the very least, more bearable when seen in context. It's no masterpiece, but it's colourful, it's vibrant, and it's simple, accessible animation, just in time for the Easter holidays.

Rio is now showing in 2D and 3D at cinemas nationwide.
If you've seen Rio, why not share your comments below?

I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.

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