"Rio" a fun animated frolic

Thu Apr 7, 2011 7:21pm EDT
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By Megan Lehmann

SYDNEY (Hollywood Reporter) - One doesn't go to Rio searching for the meaning of life at Carnivale and neither will you find it in "Rio," a tropical-colored 3D animated wingding that will have kids and their chaperones shaking a tail feather to its pulsating Latin beats.

Carlos Saldanha, the Rio de Janeiro-born director of the "Ice Age" franchise, heads home to warmer climes to continue his winning streak with Blue Sky Studios, infusing his avian adventure with enough pep and spice to see it soar above a fairly ho-hum plotline.

Blue Sky's last movie, "Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs," took nearly $900 million worldwide, making it among the highest grossing animated films ever, and "Rio" -- balmy, bouncy, neither saccharine nor too scary -- ticks similar family-friendly boxes without reinventing the animation wheel.

Twentieth Century Fox opens the G-rated frolic Thursday in Australia and territories across Europe, Asia and South America ahead of its U.S. bow on April 15.

Saldanha may never surpass the delightful squirrel-and-the-acorn sequence that opened "Ice Age," but the hundreds of deftly syncopated Brazilian birds that spark up Rio's opening musical number will do for now.

It's here in the jungle that we meet Blu, a rare blue macaw who is getting ready to spread his wings when he is rudely snatched up by smugglers and whisked away to snow-bound Minnesota.

His savior appears in the guise of a bookish young girl who takes him in and rears him as a companion rather than a pet. Blu (spot-on whiny voicing by "Social Network's" Jesse Eisenberg) leads a mollycoddled life of the mind with Linda (Leslie Mann) until one day dorky Brazilian ornithologist Tulio (Rodrigo Santoro) comes to whisk him back to Rio to mate with the last remaining female of his species.

Feathers fly when Samba-hating nerd bird Blu is foisted upon the spirited Jewel (Anne Hathaway), a freedom-lover who has nothing but scorn for the neurotic homebody.   Continued...