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The Independent Critic

Anne Hathaway, George Lopez, Jesse Eisenberg, Jamie Foxx, Jemaine Clement, Leslie Mann, Will.i.Am
Carlos Saldanha
Don Rhymer
Rated PG
96 Mins.
20th Century Fox
Widescreen Theatrical Feature;
Deleted Scenes;
Welcome to Rio Music Video;
Rio de JAM-eiro Jukebox;
Taio Cruz - Telling the World Music Video

 "Rio" Review 
Blu (Jesse Eisenberg) is a rare macaw believing himself to be the last of his kind. Living a comfortable, domesticated life in Minnesota, Blu is taken to the vastly more spirited land of Rio de Janeiro when it is learned that he is not, in fact, the last of his kind and that the recent discovery is, in fact, a "she" named Jewel (Anne Hathaway).

Of course, it ain't gonna' be love at first sight. It will, however, be quite the festive and wondrous adventure as Rio leaps to life in its beautiful and energized setting of Rio de Janeiro and the awe-inspiring Brazil.

From the makers of the Ice Age films, Rio is a vastly superior production to those films. While it falls considerably short of anything with the name of Pixar attached to it, Rio is entertaining and attractive enough that it should have no trouble winning its opening weekend box-office race and should definitely be considered a magnificent leap forward for distrib 20th Century Fox in the area of animated features.

Virtually every aspect of its production, from its exuberant soundtrack to its marvelous vocal cast, is alive and spirited in a way that a film has yet to be in early 2011. Directed by Carlos Saldanha, himself from Rio de Janeiro, Rio makes you want to book the next flight out to spend a week in Rio or to be a macaw or to see a macaw or to simply sneak right back into the theater to watch this film again.

Animal welfare activists, animal loving children and anyone who loves entertaining animation should consider at least catching a matinee of Rio, a film that modestly blends in a pro-endangered species theme with knee-tapping tunes and such beautifully animated macaws, toucans, songbirds and other animals that the kiddoes will most assuredly be enthralled by what they are watching on the big screen.

It helps that the vocal work is on par with the marvelous visuals, with pre-Oscar Jesse Eisenberg enlivening the picture with a sweetness and undeniable adorability while Anne Hathaway makes for a far better macaw than she did an Oscar host. Jemaine Clement is a dastardly wonderful baddie, while Jamie Foxx and Will.i.Am are spot on perfect as a pair of crooning songbirds. The fact that the film takes place during Carnival only adds more reason for Saldanha, who also co-wrote the script, to add more zest and color to the film.

While the soundtrack is quite exuberant, the songs themselves occasionally are a tad forgettable and occasionally it feels like Saldanha is so in love with the whole thing that Rio comes off as a touch bland and generic. Fortunately, nearly all of this is over-shadowed by the bursts of color, dynamic vocal work and the fact that beautifully animated macaws are just plain awesome to watch.

While Rio isn't really necessary to view in 3-D, this is one film that you won't necessarily regret paying the extra bucks for the extra bursts of color and animation. Rio isn't really the kind of film that will have adult audience members leaving the theater as happy as the kids, but it is solid enough for the entire family that you won't mind it when the kids inevitably want to pick up the DVD or Blu-Ray. You likely won't even want to drive your head into the skull when your child hits the start button on the DVD again and again and again, captivated by the film's spirit and beauty.

Without a doubt one of early 2011's better animated features, though nowhere near the quality of the less kid friendly Rango, Rio is this weekend's real film that will make you scream. Sorry, Wes.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic