By Darren Wee, Special to The China Post
April 8, 2011, 2:26 pm TWN
Avian adventure "Rio" (里約大冒險), like the city it is named after, is fun and festive. However, as far as animated films go, it is no rare species.
Domesticated Macaw Blu has lived a sheltered live in Small Moose, Minnesota, hundreds of miles away from his birthplace in the Brazilian rainforest. Spoilt by his master, bookshop owner Linda, he has never learned to fly although he has developed a keen interest in science.
Their quiet life is disturbed when Tulio, an ornithologist from Rio de Janeiro, arrives at their bookshop to inform Linda that Blu is the last male of his species, and offers them a free trip to Rio where Jewel, the last female is held in captivity.
They travel to Rio just when the city's inhabitants are getting warmed up for Carnival. However, on their first night, while Linda and Tulio are on a romantic dinner date, the aviary is raided by poachers who steal the two rare birds. Blu and Jewel get off to a rough start but they must work together if they are to escape and find Linda before they are hunted down by Nigel, the poachers' pet cockatoo.
"Rio" comes from Blue Sky Studios, the makers of the "Ice Age" (冰原歷險記) franchise, and it is apparent that they have taken an "if it's not broken, don't fix it" attitude to the film. "Rio" follows a tested formula for animated films: animals that talk, an exotic setting and culture, love that transcends social classes, and highly stylized musical numbers. "Rio" draws on the national music of Brazil, the Samba, to infuse the film with a Latin flavor, and while Brazil is unexplored territory for an animated film, the storyline takes a well-trodden path.
Jewel is voiced by Anne Hathaway and Jessie Einsenburg voices Blu. Gender roles are reversed, Jewel is fiercely-independent while Blu is a hypochondriac, in keeping with the two actors' recent film roles, and in that sense it was good casting for both the film and the actors. Anne Hathaway recently portrayed a sexually aggressive woman suffering from early onset Parkinson's disease in "Love and Other Drugs" (愛情藥不藥) and Einsenburg portrayed Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg in "The Social Network" (社群網戰).
But it is Jermaine Clement who steals the show. Clement, one half of comedy duo "Flight of the Conchords," voices Nigel, a "birdylicious," "malicious" cockatoo who in his halcyon days was something of an avian Lassie. Now his plumage is moulting, he promises to make all other birds ugly too. His rap, "Pretty Bird, " delivered in his enunciated British accent is one of the funniest moments in the film — "Like an abandoned school I have no principals/principles." Nigel can hold his crest high as one of the campest villains in animation.