Rio (2011)

(In theatres, April 2011) The possibilities of computer animation are in full bloom in this high-spirited, fizzy, highly enjoyable adventure starring talking songbirds.  The story has chases and romantic comedy plot points that we’ve seen dozens of times before, but they’re executed in such light-hearted fashion that it’s hard to be overly critical.  (Although there are two spitting gags that don’t really fit.)  From the spectacular opening musical number to the closing credits, Rio does honour to its namesake by being as vibrant and colourful as Brazil often feels.  And yet, for a film aimed at kids, it still manages to slip in a few socially-relevant mentions of animal smuggling and poverty in the favelas.  Still, the emphasis is on the animals, and that’s where the vocal performances matter.  Jesse Eisenberg is good as the socially-mystified hero, but his voice is, by now, so closely identified to an nebbish archetype that it can be distracting.  Meanwhile, and Jamie Foxx have the chance to sing a bit, while Anne Hathaway is generally unobjectionable as the other main character.  While Rio gains to points for audacity, it does the now-familiar animated-feature characteristics well: A few fast-paced action sequences, cute anthropomorphic characters, a humorous tone, some singing and dancing and a finale that wraps everything up.  It may not push the envelope like many of Pixar’s films, but it’s good enough to be pleasant and satisfying both to kids and adults.

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