Voiced by Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway
DIRECTOR CARLOS SALDANHA
REVIEW MARK NAGLAZAS
It was surprising to learn that Rio 2 was opening today because I thought I'd already been watching the sequel to the Brazil-set hit animated feature every night on SBS in the form of the World Cup.
With a parade of perfumed peacocks led by Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar, a tribe of tattooed warriors - they may look fearsome but they seem to enjoying the post-goal dancing a little too much - and with thousands of painted, shrieking, samba-ing fans there's little difference between the World Cup and an animated musical set in the land of Carnival.
Unfortunately, Rio 2 leaves behind the colourful favelas, stunning beaches with sunbathers wearing the other kind of thongs and the endless partying, shifting to the Amazon where Blu (Jesse Eisenberg) and his new family head to help his former owner Linda (Leslie Mann) and her ornithologist beau Tulio (Rodrigo Santoro) in search of the supposedly extinct blue macaws.
Brazil's jungle and its mighty river are gorgeous, as are the colourful birds and other critters who inhabit it.
But it is a world we've seen many times before (from The Lion King through to the Madagascar movies) and not nearly as visually arresting and interesting as Rio de Janeiro in the first movie, which was so vibrant you wished one of the genius animators would conjure up a plane and fly you there.
The storyline of Rio 2 also has a more generic, overstuffed, frantic feel, with director Carlos Saldanha and his team cramming in too many characters and storylines and too many pop culture references to recapture the charm of the first movie, which was a lovely tale of a domesticated macaw from Minnesota who reconnects with his Brazilian roots and finds love.
While the narrative involving Jewel's (Anne Hathaway) rediscovery of her Amazonian family is warm and amusing, especially the sequences in which Blu must deal with his partner's authoritarian father (Andy Garcia) and her flashy, seemingly heroic childhood playmate and romantic rival (Bruno Mars), Rio 2 takes flight only during the rousing musical sequences.
Most memorable, is the Broadway-ready duet in which the crazed, love-struck pink dark frog (a very funny Kristin Chenoweth) serenades the malevolent cockatoo Nigel (Jemaine Clement in top form again), which embraces stage musical cliches at the same time as sending them up. Indeed, Nigel, who in the new movie sets out to take revenge on Blu for the misdeeds done to him in the first movie, is the most enjoyable character in Rio 2, a hammy would-be Shakespearean with more than a touch of The Simpsons' resident murderous snob Krusty the Clown.
There is also an inspired sequence in which the madcap showbiz trio from the first movie - the party animal toucan Rafael (George Lopez) and the hip-hop-happy pair of Pedro the cardinal (will i. am) and Nico the canary (Jamie Foxx) - hold an audition in the middle of the jungle for their next big Carnival act.
Among those who hope to impress the impresarios from the big smoke are "the amazing capoeira turtles", who look good but do everything so slowly it is as if they are standing still, a mosquito symphony orchestra that bombs out when Pedro squishes one of the members, and a cute wide-eyed critter who launches into Andrew Lloyd Webber's Memory from Cats before being eaten by a panther.
A little more of this madness and a little less of the perfunctory greenie politics and the threat to the Amazonian rainforest - nothing wrong with the issue but it is thrown into an already overcrowded movie - would have lifted Rio 2 above being a solid sequel into something truly memorable.
Rio 2 opens today.