An explosion of color, movement and music, director Carlos Saldanha’s Rio is a Valentine to his native land. It espouses the virtues of approaching life with a spring in your step and a song in your heart, a belief that drives the film and its characters throughout. Fish out of water (make that macaw out of the rain forest) Blu (voice by Jesse Eisenberg) is our surrogate, a bird raised in the wilds of Minnesota, whose owner Linda (Leslie Mann) agrees to transport him to Rio de Janeiro so that he might mate with the last female of the species.
Ah, but the best laid plans of macaws and men do go awry and before you know it, Blu and his reluctant paramour Jewel (Anne Hathaway) find themselves adrift on the streets of the city, having escaped from a group of smugglers who had stolen them. However, they get more than a little help from the sly toucan Rafael (George Lopez), as Blu attempts to find Linda, while Jewel tries to convince him of the virtues of being free.
As these two make their way, Saldanha puts the city and its citizens in the most favorable light. The director makes no mention of the region’s problems with widespread poverty (that’s a subject for other films) and instead focuses on the kindness of its citizens and the joyous celebration that is Carnivale, which takes place during the movie’s climax. Music, movement and color are the order of the day throughout as Saldanha pulls out all the stops at the end. The film delivers a treat for the eyes and the ears as Blu and Jewel reunite on the stage of the world’s largest party. To be sure, Rio’s story is nothing new, but as Blu learns to shake his tail feathers, we’re reminded that it’s far better to dance through this adventure that is life rather than hide from it.
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