Monday, April 18, 2011

TGD Movie Review: Rio

Despite great personal strife in the form of sleep deprivation, my wife and I dragged our boys to see Rio last Saturday. It's Dreamworks' latest animated feature, powered by a plethora of voice talents including Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway, Leslie Mann, Tracy Morgan, George Lopez, Jamie Foxx, Will.I.Am...and the list goes on to include one of my favorites, a man who I am excited to see getting more roles lately, Jemaine Clement of Flight of the Conchords fame.

We saw it on a regular screen, sans 3D glasses and I honestly didn't see much in the film that would have made the 3D worthwhile. The scenic panoramas over the city looked plenty breathtaking in 2D and the action sequences weren't so over the top or frequent that I felt it was worth the extra cash for the 3D version.

Aside from who's voice you might recognize or how many dimensions you prefer from your film experience, here's what I thought of the movie overall...

The Plus Side: It starts with the colors. I think the creators tried to make it start with the music, which is fun and lively as well, but the color, like the bright cerulean of the aptly named lead character, Blue, is what you really notice. And the color isn't just used to show off the rainforest or the downtown streets of Rio de Janeiro during carnival. The lack of color is just as craftily used as the main blue macaw contrasts with his adopted home in snowy Minnesota and also in the less festive environs of the hillside slums that the two kidnapped birds are led through. It makes for an overall visually stunning film.

Getting back to the music, there are several interludes. This isn't something I generally enjoy in animated films, but it wasn't overly obnoxious here. The music was present throughout the movie and thus blended in and became an acceptable part of it. One number felt a bit forced as Clement's evil bird character sand about himself, but it was amusing and forgivable.

Speaking of amusing, the movie pulled that off. My kids smiled and laughed throughout as there was a great deal of physical comedy and silliness. I legitimately laughed out loud a few times (mostly during the short appearances by the bulldog, Luiz, voiced by Tracy Morgan), and at least kept a smile on my face for the duration. None of the jokes made me groan or cause me to wish I could leave without anyone noticing.

The final selling point of the movie was its message. I know everything has been done before, but I still believe in a story having a moral, especially a story directed at kids. Rio carried a positive message and left you feeling proud of the main characters for being brave enough to try new things and to do what needed to be done. It encourages kids to explore and unlock their inner potential, to seek the skills they have yet to tap, yet also to value that which they already know they do well.

The Down Side: Rio was not spectacular. Worse has been said about other movies on this very blog, so that is admittedly not such a bad thing. If you don;t go to the theater expecting Toy Story, Shrek or Up, you won't be disappointed.

I can completely accept unbelievable occurrences in animated films centered around animals. I don't need to have it explained how numerous species of birds and dogs can understand one another. I do, however, have a problem when the humans involved in the movie repeated do not notice their animal counterparts doing amazingly human things. When a goose hits the window of a storefront with a snowball, I would expect a human to at least glance around and wonder where that came from. I expect the details of two birds beating the crap out of some humans not to just be glanced over and I would like it if a particularly evil bird who sides with animal smugglers to be more subtle in the way he reveals the success of his work to his keepers. This is a problem in Rio. Call me anal, but it's something that caused me to roll my eyes at times when I should have been paying attention and enjoying the movie.

The final issue is something I didn't have a problem with but some people might. While there was no offensive language in Rio and no vulgar jokes that I can recall, there was cleavage and there was cross-dressing. Again, it is done in a cartoon and I think it added to the overall humor of the movie, but I could see some more conservative parents, or even parents who don't want to have their kids ask them awkward questions afterward wanting to know about such issues ahead of time. You have officially been forewarned.

The Wrap Up: As I said, this movie is not spectacular. It will entertain your family, however, and provide you with a few lines that you may repeat throughout the following days. The colors are bright which makes the scenery probably worth seeing on the big screen, though I don't see the need for 3D. The moral of the story is positive, though the vehicle it's being carried in can be silly and unbelievable at its worst.

Overall, it's a decent family movie. While a production shouldn't be made of going to see it, if your family is already planning on seeing a movie, it's a solid choice.

TGD Rating: 2.5/5 star. Remember that is 2.5 fifths of one star. The nerd inside me desperately wanted to simplify this to 1/2 star, but I was afraid my readers might think I was rating it with one half of one star out of five possible stars. One full star is TGD's highest possible rating. It means it is the kind of movie good enough to orbit planets and possibly sentient life around.

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