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Rio (2011)

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 8/2/2011

All Ratings out of

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 8/9/2011

One of the beauties of animation is its ability to take us anywhere, as it's only limited by the creative team's imagination. Animated films have taken us to distant planets, fantasy lands, the past, and the future. However, animation can even assist in going to realistic places. Look at The Lion King, which recreated the veldt in Africa or Finding Nemo, which showed us a fish-eyed view of Sydney harbor. Now, Rio takes us to the famous South American city to show us how this colorful place make the perfect back-drop to an animated adventure.

As Rio opens, a baby blue macaw is taken from his home and transported to the U.S., where he's found by a young girl. The story then leaps ahead 15 years. The macaw, Blu (voiced by Jesse Eisenberg), lives with Linda (voiced by Leslie Mann), and he helps her out around the bookstore which she owns. One day, Tulio (voiced by Rodrigo Santoro), an ornithologist from Brazil, visits the bookstore and explains that Blu is one of only two blue macaws left. He wants to talk Blu and Linda to Rio de Janeiro so that Blu can mate. Linda is skeptical at first, but decides to take the plunge. Soon, Blu finds himself beak-to-beak with Jewel (voiced by Anne Hathaway), a feisty macaw who is more interested in getting back to the jungle than getting to know Blu. When the ornithology lab is attacked, Blu and Jewel finds themselves chained together and on the run. Blu will have to learn to let go of his insecurities and trust a new group of friends in order to make his way back to Linda.

I don't know what movie was the first to simply use a scene from the film as a trailer (The Sixth Sense?), but Rio followed this trend, using the learning to fly/hang-gliding scene. I saw this trailer several times and I never found it engaging, and thus, I had no real urge to see the movie. And when it came time to watch the Blu-ray Disc, I didn't expect much from the film. Animated films, especially CG animated films, have become a dime-a-dozen recently, and the bold "From the Creators of Ice Age" on the box holds no weight with me, as those movies aren't very good, save for Scrat, who may be the greatest actor of our generation.

So, I was pleasantly surprised to find that Rio is pretty good. The movies pros and cons can easily be broken down between the story and the characters. Exotic birds aren't exactly my favorite animals, but Blu is infused with nice amount of personality, and, let's face it, baby Blu is very cute. The opening scenes of Blu and Linda going about their daily routine are very charming and they're the perfect way to draw the viewer into the film. Jewel, Linda, and Tulio each bring their own charm to the movie, with Linda's giant eyes making her reminiscent of a Disney character. However, the supporting characters leave much to be desired. Pedro (voiced by will.i.am) and Nico (voiced by Jamie Foxx), as well as Rafael (voiced by George Lopez) are all very stereotypical, and, frankly, annoying.

The story has similar ups and downs. Rio is yet another "fish out of water" story, (or should it be "bird out of Minnesota"?). Blu is the typical neurotic, Ben Stiller-esque character who is afraid of everything and full of neuroses. We really don't get anything new from Blu, save for the fact that he's a bird. It's the typical shy and anxious character who must discover his inner strength and become the hero. The villains fall into the same category -- they are the kind of non--descript thugs who would be at home in any family film. The unique thing here is the setting. Not only is the movie set in Rio, it uses some of the city's most famous sites and assets in the story. I didn't expect Carnivale to be in the movie, but it certainly adds some spice to the film.

As noted above, we get a lot of animated films these days, and in the end, Rio is decidedly mediocre. The movie offers some original things, but they are off-set by the familiar trappings. There are some funny moments, and the primary characters are interesting, but the movie falls below the likes of Rango.

Rio offers some uncomfortable moments with all of the kidnappings which take place in Rio on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. The image looks fantastic, as it shows no grain and no defects from the source material. The colors are incredible, making this one Blu-ray Disc worth checking out. The reds, blues, and greens are truly impressive, and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is top-notch, as is the image’s depth (even in this 2D version). The Disc contains a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are very good and they are most noticeable in the jungle and street scenes. These effects are nicely detailed and show good separation. The surround sound effects are very good, as they are easily distinguishable from the front and center effects. The salsa music offers good subwoofer action.

The Rio Blu-ray Disc contains a few extras. We get one DELETED SCENE which runs about 90 seconds. This is show in an animated storyboard format, but contains the actor's voices and has some laughs. "Explore the World of Rio" is an interactive feature which allows the viewer to learn more about four areas of Rio de Janeiro -- beach, stadium, jungle, and city. "Saving the Species: One Voice at a Time" (25 minutes) takes us into the studio to see the voice actors at work, allows those actors to comment on their characters and shows how the actors influence the animators. "The Making of Hot Wings" (8 minutes) allows us to see will.i.am and Jamie Foxx in the studio working on a song from the movie. "Boom-boom Tish-tish: The Sounds of Rio" (14 minutes) has Director Carlos Saldhana discussing the influence of Brazilian music on the film. We then get comments from the composers and musicians who worked on the movie. "Carnival Dance-o-Rama" is a set-top game. We get the MUSIC VIDEO for the song "Welcome to Rio", as well as the video for "Telling the World" by Taio Cruz. "Rio De Jam-Eiro Jukebox" allows the viewer to automatically access five songs from the film. "Postcards from Rio" is a set-top art activity game. "The Real Rio" (10 minutes) has the cast and crew talking about what a great place Rio is, and we then see the crew location scouting (of sorts) in the city. The final extra is the THEATRICAL TRAILER for the film.

Review Copyright 2011 by Mike Long