By Bob Garver
I actually liked 2011’s “Rio,” even though it made me physically ill. My stomach couldn’t take the slobbering bulldog voiced by Tracy Morgan, and yet I still gave the movie three stars. “Rio 2” sees all the birds flying deep into the Amazon, and they have to leave the bulldog behind (they also leave Rio de Janeiro behind, making the title somewhat misleading). This should set the sequel up to be even better, or at least more tolerable, but apparently the birds have left behind all of the franchise’s charm as well.
Blu (Jesse Eisenberg) and Jewel (Anne Hathaway) are rare Blue Macaws living the high life in the big city with their three bland kids. They party at Carnival, they eat blueberry pancakes and the kids tie the babysitter to fireworks in a scene I fear younger viewers will want to imitate. One day they see on television that their human researcher friends (Leslie Mann and Rodrigo Santoro) have discovered more Blue Macaws in the Amazon rainforest. Jewel is eager to fly down there and meet more of their kind. Blu reluctantly agrees to the glorified camping trip, even though he’s not thrilled to leave behind all his creature comforts.
But don’t worry, they’re not leaving everything behind. They’re bringing along their friends: toucan Rafael (George Lopez), canary Nico (Jamie Foxx) and cardinal Pedro (will.i.am). In pursuit is old nemesis Nigel (Jemaine Clement), a cockatoo grounded by an unfortunate run-in with an active propeller in the first movie. He’s flanked by a hapless mute anteater and a poisonous frog named Gabi (Kristen Chenoweth) who is madly in love with him.
Once everyone gets to the rainforest, they find out that not only are the rumors of more Blue Macaws true, but it’s Jewel’s long-lost family. Her father Eduardo (Andy Garcia), the leader of the tribe, is overjoyed to see his daughter and the kids, but less so Blu, who he immediately dismisses as soft. Also still around is Jewel’s childhood friend Roberto (Bruno Mars), now a heartthrob with a great singing voice. Blu frets about being accepted by Jewel’s family and friends, and ponders if she only coupled with him because she thought that he was the last male of his species.
The film is top heavy of characters and storylines. I saw no reason for there to be a feud between the blue birds and the red birds over a dwindling food supply, except as a flimsy excuse to set up a sport sequence (they say the sport is close to soccer, but it looks suspiciously like Quidditch). There’s also a needless conflict involving a logging company. The whole storyline exists so just so Blu can save the day and to remind us that in movies about cute animals, logging companies are evil. The film should have just let Nigel and his henchmen be the villains; the rest of the obstacles could have just come from the jungle itself.
Most of the humor falls flat, consisting mainly of tired slapstick, gross-out gags and “bumbling Blu” bits ripped off from “Meet the Parents.” The only jokes that work are cutaways where various creatures audition for a talent show, and even a lot of these are played-out gags involving rapping, break dancing and booty shaking. To be honest, the funniest thing about the movie was hearing the girls in the audience squeal over the Bruno Mars character. It’s funny enough when they go crazy over Robert Pattinson or One Direction, but Roberto is animated and a bird.
“Rio” was cute and funny, “Rio 2” is clumsy and annoying. Adults will be bored out of their skulls, kids may be entertained, but only because it is junk food. Somehow this franchise has managed to go downhill from a movie that made me sick.
One and a Half Stars out of Five.
“Rio 2” is rated G. Its running time is 101 minutes.
Contact Bob Garver at firstname.lastname@example.org.