Rio 2

(2014) ** G
101 min. 20th Century Fox. Director: Carlos Saldanha. Cast: Jemaine Clement, Jake T. Austin, Carlinhos Brown, Anne Hathaway, Jesse Eisenberg,


Parents dragged to the movies by wee ones know the sensation well: going off to some mental "happy place" (or not-so-happy place of "stuff I gotta do" lists) while a CGI-animated kid flick plays out unabated on the big screen. It's even money that most post-pubescents will have that mind-drift sensation sometime deep into the samba-saturated sequel Rio 2.

The 2011 adventure Rio was pretty generic to begin with, and the follow-up doesn't fly far from the nest. Neurotic Blu (Jesse Eisenberg), his blinkered wife Jewel (Anne Hathaway) and their brood of youngsters have settled comfortably into the domesticity of the Blu Bird Sanctuary in Rio de Janeiro. But when their benefactors Túlio (Rodrigo Santoro) and Linda (Leslie Mann) discover evidence that Blu's family may not be the only macaws of their kind in existence, it's back to the wild blue yonder of the Amazon in search of a flock hiding out in the depths of the rainforest.

Turns out that flock does exist, and includes Jewel's father Eduardo (Andy Garcia, well cast) and aunt (Rita Moreno). Urban-outfitted Blu now faces the hard sell of "the ways of the jungle," a lifestyle quickly embraced by the wife and kids. Repeating the (condescending) mantra "Happy wife, happy life," and fretting in the face of tough Eduardo and preening Roberto (Bruno Mars), Blu tries hard to tamp down a fresh inferiority complex and get with the program.

Busying up the plot are the complications of evil, encroaching clear-cutters and flightless cockatoo Nigel (Jemaine Clement of musical duo Flight of the Conchords), the latter back to get revenge on Blu. As if that weren't enough, birdbrains Nico (Jamie Foxx) and Pedro (Will i Am) are making preparations for "the Carnival show," necessitating a series of amusing call-of-the-wild auditions.

In story terms, it's all pretty much boilerplate at best and unpleasant at worst: Blu gets lectured and punished for his selfish but also legitimate feelings of hesitancy about upheaving his city life (and isn't this picture called Rio 2, after all?). That might be great for our compassion toward Blu, but it inadvertently turns his wife and kids into jerks who are never called out for their own insensitivities.

Perhaps better to focus on the colorful, advanced 3D spectacle—of which there is plenty, including a game of midair fútbol—and the saving graces of musical comedy. Clement again gets a big number (though a disappointing parody version of "I Will Survive"), but the MVP award of Rio 2 goes to Kristin Chenoweth as poisonous tree frog Gabi. Beside being arguably the most amusingly animated character, Gabi delivers a vocally virtuosic amorous aria, "Poisonous Love," that is the picture's hands-down highlight. Maybe instead of Rio 3, Gabi and Nigel should get their own spinoff, as the rest here—for all its visual and musical liveliness—resembles an early remark from that canary Nico: "I'm not inspired."

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Aspect ratios: 2.40:1

Number of discs: 3

Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1

Street date: 7/15/2014

Distributor: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Very impressive A/V specs are the highlights of Fox's Deluxe Edition Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD combo pack for Rio 2. The 3D transfer here is a beaut, which begins with the filmmaker's concerted design efforts. The 3D modeled environments and characters give these pictures a head-start in the 3D process, but the placement of these elements within the frame skillfully creates a sense of reality that's a strong foundation to build on when pumping up the "wow" factor in key moments. The sense of depth impresses throughout, with a field that stretches back into the recesses of the jungle environment or the blue skies flecked with fluffy clouds as reference points. Brightness has been properly pumped to compensate for the 3D glasses, so color remains vibrant and arresting, a key selling point for the Rio pictures. Inky black level and carefully calibrated contrast help to keep the image pinpoint-resolved in detail and textures (which are especially fantastic in scenic elements and the birds' feathers—less so when it comes to the waxy human skin on the supporting characters). Protruding beaks and flying fruit are among the many effects that add excitement without ever announcing themselves as gimmickry. Certainly, the action scenes, like the aforementioned football sequence and the Carnival partying (with fireworks and confetti), pop like crazy in 3D, and earn the Deluxe Edition's price of "admission."

The 2D transfer retains all of the good qualities on display in the 3D transfer—other than the added dimension, though there's something to be said for the hi-def illusion of depth even in the 2D image. As for the lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix, this is reference quality stuff that roars to life in the many musical sequences (both typical scoring and musical numbers) while maintaining a consistently ideal balance amongst its aural elements: dialogue is never overwhelmed by music or effects, and discrete separation and placement creates awe-inspiring soundscapes for the subtly different jungle environments in which each scene plays out (and, briefly, the distinct sounds of the urban jungle). LFE thumps along nicely with the film's percussive rhythms and the action, when required.

Unfortunately, this Deluxe Edition isn't quite so deluxe in the bonuses department, though a smattering of extras add some value. The 3D disc includes only the "Deleted Scene - 'Practice'" (:38, HD), which also appears on the 2D Blu-ray disc. That 2D Blu-ray holds most of the bonuses, including the swift recap featurette "Rio Refresher" (3:21, HD). More substantial is "Boom, Shake, Snap: The Local Sounds of Brazil" (19:28, HD), with director Carlos Saldanha and executive music producer Sergio Mendes talking us through the unique sonic highlights of the real Rio, which inspired their work on the film. "Birds and Beats: The Singing Talents of Rio 2" (10:19, HD) is that always welcome extra introducing the voice cast, while "Nigel the Shakespearean Cockatoo and Friends" (7:17, HD) hones in on Jemaine Clement's character and includes a tour of the Blue Sky facility by Carlos Saldanha.

The jukebox feature Music, Dance, Sing-Along Machine (HD) offers up access to ten “Music Machine” selections, four “Dance-Along” numbers, and six “Sing-Along” songs. "You Be the Judge" (1:49, HD) is a brief but amusing series of auditions from Tapir, Monkey and Turtle. Rounding out the disc are the music video "'What is Love' by Jonelle Monae" (1:37, HD), a Still Gallery (HD), "Theatrical Trailers" (4:51, HD), and the comparative "'I Will Survive' Multi-Language Sequence" (1:58, HD).

Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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