Rio2coverGrade: B+
Entire family: Yes
2014, 101 min., Color
Rated G
20th Century Fox Animation
Aspect ratio: 2.40:1
Featured audio: DTS-HD MA 7.1
Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, UV Digital Copy
Bonus features: B+

I won’t beat around the rainforest. If your family enjoyed Rio, they’ll appreciate this sequel, which brings back all of the original voice talents and offers the same sort of smorgasbord of songs, richly textured animation, and a serviceable plot that combines humor with mild peril. Even when that plot hits an occasional speed bump, the animation is so darned captivating that you don’t really notice.

If Rio showed that 20th Century Fox Animation had finally moved into Disney’s neighborhood, with Rio 2 they’ve taken off their shoes and propped their feet up on the coffee table. This talented bunch is clearly comfortable with what they’re doing, and they strut their stuff at every opportunity, showcasing things like complicated big-cast song-and-dance sequences and the hyper-realistic water and fireworks that used to be the sole province of Disney animators. And the writing, while not on a par with the best of Disney, is certainly good enough to match second-tier Disney efforts.

Other things Fox apparently learned from Disney animators are the importance of character personalities and the impact that small details and quirky comedic moments can have on a film. Rio 2 is loaded with little surprises that catch you off-guard and make you smile or laugh out loud. What’s interesting is that it’s often not the same sight gag or verbal gibe that tickles everyone’s fancy. I watched this with three family members, and it seemed as if each of us blurted out an expression of delight at least once when the rest of the room was silent.

A feast for the senses, Rio 2 picks up where Rio left off. You don’t have to know the whole backstory because there are hints embedded in the narrative. But it certainly helps—especially to appreciate the evil cockatoo Nigel’s current predicament. In Rio, Linda (Leslie Mann) had brought her blue macaw Blu (Jesse Eisenberg) to Rio to mate him with Jewel (Anne Hathaway), after she learned from ornithologist Tulio (Rodrigo Santoro) that those two are the last of their species. By film’s end, she had married Tulio and set up a blue macaw sanctuary. In Rio 2 their love-birds have three spirited offspring—Carla, Bia, and Tiago—and on an expedition to release a rehabilitated bird, Tulio and Linda glimpse another rare blue macaw. So the whole group sets off on an expedition deep into the Amazon to discover if there are more.  

This sequel features twice the music and twice the villains. Instead of illegal pet trade baddies and the evil cockatoo that assists them, there are illegal loggers who threaten the macaws’ habitat, as well as a vengeful Nigel (Jemaine Clement) who is determined to kill Blu for what he did to him (out of self-defense) in the first film. Complicating matters is that the leader of the wild blue macaws, Eduardo (Andy Garcia), turns out to be Jewel’s father—and like any father who learns his daughter is married, he disapproves of the fanny-pack wearing, GPS-consulting Blu and sets out to toughen him up by teaching him rainforest survival tricks. It doesn’t help that Jewel’s childhood “friend,” the dashing Roberto (Bruno Mars), turns out to be good at everything, including singing.

Rio2screenThough we’ve seen an attraction of unlikely species before in animated features—the donkey and dragon in Shrek quickly come to mind—it’s more than a little weird to have a poison dart frog in love with a rather large and mean-tempered cockatoo. The song that Gabi (Kristin Chenoweth) sings seems better suited to main character love declarations, and there are other moments in the film that simply aren’t as pleasing or successful as the rest. Overall, though, Rio 2 is a fun and worthy sequel that captures all the vibrant colors and sights and sounds of the Brazilian city. Was it coincidental that this film was released as Rio hosted the World Cup? I think not. So with Rio hosting the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, you’d have to guess that the Fox animators already have that date pinned on their storyboards.

Director Carlos Saldanha (Ice Age) was born in Rio, and his animated tributes continue to be loving. Rio 2 is rated G and it’s pretty tame—free, for the most part, of the kind of rude humor that keeps creeping into family films. But sensitive children might be shaken by a montage intended to humorously show the dangers of the Amazon, in which cute creature after creature is eaten or killed in shockingly quick fashion. A sideplot featuring minor characters seems inserted only to give those characters something to do, but the two-pronged main narrative easily holds the interest of family members of all ages. And those delightful little details hit you when you least expect them.