Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Movie Review: Rio

Rio is about Blu, a Spix's Macaw (Cyanopsitta spixii) [1], who was kidnapped as a fledgling and wound up in Moose Lake, Minnesota. As a result of growing up in captivity, Blu never learned to fly (which is a subplot in the movie). Since Spix's Macaws are presumed to be extinct in the wild and in the movie the captive population is down to two—Blu and Jewel.[2] So, to preserve the species, Blu and Jewel must…well, you know. This is the first family film where the procreative act—not love or romance—is the MacGuffin [3] that drives the events of the story.[4] Besides entertaining children Rio also has the motive of educating children about the illegal pet trade and wildlife conservation. You have to wonder, though: will this movie combat smuggling of wild animals? Or encourage it because now millions of children want a macaw that they can do a fist-bump with?

My verdict: First, I'm surprised there weren't any guaranĂ¡ cameos.[5] Moving on: this movie has some good drama and comedy.[6] The point where Blu finally figures out how to fly is well-orchestrated and satisfying. The voice actor for Blu (Jesse Eisenberg) had an annoying voice that adequately portrayed him as a neurotic sissy, but wasn't convincing when Blu stopped being a sissy. I'm not sure why Jewel ever stopped hating Blu and started liking him. There was nothing attractive in his character. The animation was pretty good [7]—except for the humans' teeth. They never get that right. And Blu's face was so skinny it was distracting; Jewel's is not so skinny, so I'm not sure why they made that decision. Despite having a rich Brazilian musical tradition to draw from, I didn't think any of the songs were that catchy. While I didn't think this movie was spectacular, I wouldn't be bothered if my kids watched it over and over—it's still decent.

Note: The short, Scrat's Continental Crack-up was also on this DVD and I thoroughly enjoyed it.


[1] In the film he's referred to as a Blue Macaw.

[2] In reality the captive population numbers around 85 (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spix's Macaw).

[3] See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MacGuffin.

[4] This observation is not my own. See http://projectionbooth.blogspot.com/2011/06/viewing-log-10.html#rio.

[5] Read my review of Bawls guaranĂ¡ soda here.

[6] The idiot gay henchman wasn't a nice touch, though.

[7] However, the marmosets were essentially ripped off of the lemurs in Madagascar. And the villain, Nigel, was eerily reminiscent of Scar from The Lion King.

Image attributions:

Hyacinth Macaw is by Eric Kilby, available at http://www.flickr.com/photos/ekilby/1465835548/in/photostream/.


  1. This picture shows a hyacinth macaw, not a spix macaw...
    These are spix macaws:

  2. Thanks for pointing that out. Let me just turn that into a hyperlink so others can see it more easily: http://www.act-parrots.eu/stuff/pics/spixara/actp spixara 2011 02.jpg.