The success of 2011’s“Rio,” Blu-Sky Animation’s warm-weather alternative to its “Ice Age” franchise, has led to an inevitable sequel, which inevitably proves inferior to its mediocre predecessor. “Rio 2” simply tries too hard; overly busy and uncomfortably noisy, it tries one’s patience, though the animation is colorful and kids might enjoy it.
The movie begins with a big festival in the titular city, where Blu (voiced by Jesse Eisenberg) and Jewel (Anne Hathaway), thought to be the last blue macaws in existence, have settled as a happy couple with three rambunctious chicks. To be sure, Blu is still addicted to the modern conveniences he learned to appreciate during his stay as a Minnesota pet, while wifey prefers natural things; but as a pair they still bill and coo. Meanwhile their pals, the toucan Rafael (George Lopez), cardinal Pedro (will.i.am) and canary Nico (Jamie Foxx), are auditioning acts for an upcoming show, while bulldog Luiz (Tracy Morgan) enjoys the festivities.
Important things are happening out in the rainforest, however. There Blu’s erstwhile owner Linda (Leslie Mann) and her bumbling explorer husband Tulio (Rodrigo Santoro)—who, like Blu and Jewel, found one another in the earlier movie—locate what seems to be a previously undiscovered flock of blue macaws. Jewel, a reluctant Blu and their offspring are soon trekking into the wilderness to find their potential relatives, with Rafael, Pedro and Nico not far behind.
The big discovery is that the flock turns out to be headed by Jewel’s rigid father Eduardo (Andy Garcia), who finds Blu an inept embarrassment ruined by life with humans. To make matters worse, it also includes Jewel’s childhood pal Roberto (Bruno Mars), whom Blu immediately sees as a rival for his wife’s affections. That encourages him to want to return to civilization as soon as possible, while Jewel and the chicks prefer to stay in the unspoiled paradise.
Around this domestic sitcom, the four credited screenwriters assemble a host of subplots. The grove where the macaws live is split between the blue flock and a red one (is this meant as a commentary on present-day U.S. political divisions?), and ultimately a game of something like an avian version of quidditch—in which Blue does not excel—determines which will be in control. Pedro and Nico begin auditioning the local wildlife for their upcoming show, allowing for lots of sight gags and musical numbers. The nasty cockatoo Nigel (Jermaine Clement) from “Rio” shows up with a loving frog sidekick named Gabi (Kristin Chenoweth) in pursuit of Blu. And Linda and Tulio fall into the hands of evil loggers who threaten the very existence of the untouched macaw habitat. Guess who proves his mettle by becoming its rescuer?
All of these script strands jostle and vie with one another for attention, leading an untidy tangle of messages about family, the environment, and the glories of nature, and to add to the mix there are a slew of musical numbers. Most are background pieces for montages, but Mars’ Roberto breaks out into song on a couple of occasions and Hathaway’s Jewel is assigned a tune of her own. One can probably heave a sigh of relief that neither Eisenberg’s Blu nor Garcia’s Eduardo is assigned a solo, but the duet between Clement’s Nigel and Chenoweth’s Gabi is almost inspired—something that could never be alleged against the other numbers, which seem at first hearing to be innocuous but instantly forgettable.
On the visual side, “Rio 2” is a virtual riot of color and motion, beginning with a fireworks display bursting over the titular city’s mountaintop Christ statue and continuing into the Amazon sequences, some of which mimic the look of old Busby Berkeley routines while others feature slapstick gags old enough to have been vaudeville standards. At times, it has to be said, the eye-popping images are a trifle fatiguing especially with the addition of 3D to the mix.
In sum, this is a movie that goes all out to dazzle—as the upcoming Rio Olympics are bound to do. Let’s hope that the games will be more successful at dazzling us than it is.