I wasn't the biggest fan of the animated family film, "Rio," but audiences obviously enjoyed it enough to warrant a sequel. "Rio 2" opens in theaters this weekend, and while I'm still not a huge fan, I freely admit that it succeeds thanks to a flock over-the-top characters, silly humor and lots of high-energy musical sequences.
This is the continuing story of two endangered Blue Macaws (voiced by Jesse Eisenberg and Anne Hathaway) who have settled down to raise their chicks. Their world is upended when they get reports of another flock living out in the Amazon Rainforest, so they set out on a perilous journey to reconnect with what's left of their species. Several of their goofy friends come along for the ride, if only to make sure that the jokes fly non-stop throughout the duration of the movie.
Those jokes don't always land successfully, but the filmmakers certainly get points for never giving up. That sentiment holds true for several of the characters as well. Many will never make it as a child's plushie toy, but every so often one of the characters breaks from the pack with a memorable moment. My favorite is the poisonous tree frog (Kristin Chenoweth) who falls in love with the film's nominal villain, Nigel (Jermaine Clement) but can't act on her feelings because she'd kill him if they ever touched.
"Rio 2" has several of these memorable moments that will put a smile on your face, but also long slogs through a fairly pedestrian plot. The entire middle portion plays like an avian version of "Meet the Parents," making the film feel like it's just a retread of other, better movies.
"Rio 2" does get a chance to shine with its many musical numbers. There are enough singers peppered throughout the cast that a big musical number always just around the corner. They are usually so infectiously upbeat that it's hard to imagine anybody being put off by the music. The Brazilian rhythms also lend the film a bit of originality, at least for American ears unaccustomed to samba beats.
There are a lot of good elements here, but there are so many of them that "Rio 2" never quite gets going at full speed. Dramatic moments bleed into comedic scenes which roll into musical numbers, giving the entire film a scattershot vibe. That's not necessarily a bad thing for young attention spans, but it also keeps "Rio 2" from ever soaring as a first rate animated family film.
** 1/2 Two and a half stars