Directed by Carlos Saldanha. Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway, Leslie Mann, Will.I.Am, Jamie Foxx, Tracy Morgan.
Another talking, singing and adventure-filled animal animation. Yes it is, but Rio lifts itself higher above most in the same genre with its excellent script, visual prowess and bang-on voice casting.
Touted as a film by the makers of Ice Age (Saldanha), Rio tells the tale of blue macaw called, well Blu (Eisenberg), who is taken from his natural habitat and ends up in the care of geeky Minnesota book shop owner Linda (Mann). When bird conservationist Tulio (Rodrigo Santoro) visits her with a desperate plea for help in repopulating Blu’s kind, the three head for Rio, where their adventure begins.
Blu and his prospective mate Jewel (Hathaway) are captured by unscrupulous Brazilian exotic animal dealers but soon escape meeting a motley crew of birds, monkeys and dogs along the way.
Firstly, one must thank director Carlos Saldanha for his choice of casting Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network) as Blu. The characteristic voice and geeky inflections infuse the blue bird with a nerdy charm that’s so lovable and unlike most other cutesy characters we see in Pixar and Dreamworks features. Second on the list of merits is the detail in the film. Rio de Janeiro’s streets and famous landmarks (including Christ the Redeemer) are so accurately captured in an environment that looks so real and life-like that you almost believe in this alternative world of pick-pocketing monkeys and dancing birds.
Secondary characters like Nigel the evil bird (Jemaine Clement), Pedro (Black Eyed Peas’ Will.I.Am) and Nico (Foxx) as well as Luiz (30 Rock’s Tracy Morgan) the slobbering bulldog display some brilliant voice work. Oh and special mention to the captured bat that apes legend Bela Lugosi (the Hungarian actor who famously played Dracula).
I was discussing with my ex-colleague and friend Rachit (from Filmfare) about how detailed and wonderfully penned each and every aspect and character of a Hollywood animation is. Every line of wit is sharp and purposeful. The songs are created to fit each situation; the nuances of a character (like the bat shying away from light) are used to wonderful and hilarious effect. Nothing’s in there for the sake of it. And with Rio, it all just comes together. The 3-D is effective but you’ll enjoy it just as well in 2-D.
In a way, Saldanha and his team have also gotten across the message of conservation and the ecological impact of development on our natural habitats and beautiful creatures that we should be co-existing in harmony with. Hopefully kids will be saying, “Mom, I want to be a conservationist when I grow up.” Hmmm, you think?