Directed by Carlos Saldanha
People love animated musicals; why else does Disney practically run the entertainment industry? A great Disney musical is like a grand opera with a huge orchestra and people singing their feelings into the sky. But if Disney musicals are like operas, Rio 2 is like Top 40 pop music. The soundtrack in Rio 2 makes you feel like you are listening to The Edge and, like most pop music, Rio 2 also lacks any sense of emotional depth or nuance.
Rio 2 picks up a little while after the first film ended with the only two remaining Spix McCaws, Blu (Jesse Eisenberg) and Jewel (Anne Hathaway), who have started a family in Rio. But when they discover that they may not be the only Spix McCaws left in the world, the family and their friends begin a journey into the Amazon. The plot is void of any interesting characters, emotions or motivations. Instead everything feels like a pastiche of all of the animated films we have seen over the past 10 years, most notably Ice Age.
Rio 2 tries hard to be meaningful and carry a bigger message of environmentalism. But when all of your character development is based on cheesy and overused phrases and “hip” (and out of place) lingo, you’re never going to succeed in communicating anything of significance.
Fortunately, there are a few brief moments of joy in what is generally a celebration of cliché and painfully overused tropes. Most notably, the side story of Nigel the Cockatoo (Jermaine Clement), the villain from Rio, and his quest for revenge against Blu. Nigel is a hilarious character, brought to life by the always-fabulous Clement. Even more interesting is the unrequited love story that emerges between Nigel and poisonous tree frog Gabi.
And, of course, despite the script and music, Dreamworks as always did a stunning job of animating the lush rainforests and stunning creatures that live there. If Rio 2 has anything going for it, it is that it is always a joy to look at, but offers little else.