Change of scenery does little to liven up ‘Rio 2’

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First Posted: 4/10/2014

The worst thing that happened to 2011’s “Rio” was the animated feature made money: $143.6 million domestic to be exact. A sequel was pretty much a requirement, even if the sumptuous original — thanks to its Rio de Janeiro during Carnival setting — possessed all the energy of a humid breeze.

And we’re not done yet. “Rio 2’s” estimated $39 million debut this past weekend means another tuneful, colorful blip is a near certainty.

“Rio 2” reunites Blu (voiced by Jesse Eisenberg) and Jewel (Anne Hathaway), the endangered blue macaws who fell in love the first time around. The lovebirds now have three kids and have settled into a domestic routine complete with pancake making and TV watching. Jewel, a girl of the jungle, is losing patience.

When another blue macaw is spotted in the Amazon, Jewel sees an opportunity for the family to connect with its roots. Blu, a lover of the great indoors, is reluctant to travel, but he goes to make Jewel happy. Having his friends tag along helps.

She ends up ecstatic, reuniting with her stoic father (Andy Garcia) and her childhood friend (pop star Bruno Mars), a hunky outdoorsy type. The skittish and miserable Blu can’t compete. And his love of people doesn’t endear him to the tribe, which keeps moving to avoid the humans’ destructive tendencies.

Blu’s travails are reminiscent of 2000’s “Meet the Parents,” which counts as the apotheosis of storytelling in director and co-writer Carlos Saldanha’s world. Rather than concentrating on having jokes and characters work within one plot, Saldanha switches between enervating “Who cares?” subplots.

Veteran character actor Miguel Ferrer voices an Ernest Hemingway look-a-like, an illegal logger eager to stop the conservation efforts of Tulio (Rodrigo Santoro) and Linda (Leslie Mann), Blu and Jewel’s dull-as-dirt guardians. (How a movie can water down a tart comedy ace like Mann is puzzling.) A land dispute divides the blue macaws and the parrots, culminating in an airborne soccer game. Blu’s eloquent nemesis from the first film, cockatoo Nigel (Jemaine Clement), returns for vengeance. This all happens as feathered friends Pedro ( and Nico (Jamie Foxx) hold auditions for a talent show because why not.

The needless back and forth prevents “Rio 2” from having a creative identity and keeps the characters from doing more than posturing or acting pleasant. Blu is neurotic; Jewel is skeptical; Pedro and Nico deliver pre-packaged sass. Even Blu and Jewel’s kids are a continuation of the Seven Dwarves: smarty, mischievous, and brooding. Unless you count learning a lesson or belting the occasional forgettable tune, no one says or does anything worth noting.

Like most CGI animated fare, “Rio 2” has the visuals down cold. Our retinas get flooded with jungle greens and tropical hues. But it’s accompanied with little love or personality. The movie is as colorful and lifeless as a cold case full of different varieties of Gatorade. “Rio 2” is slickly packaged, quickly digested family entertainment. That’s not the foundation for a franchise — I don’t care what the numbers say.

Rating: W W

-For more of Pete’s cinematic musings, please follow him on Twitter, @PeteCroatto.