With the World Cup fast approaching and the Rio Olympics in 2016, it’s seems the world is about to go nuts about Brazil.
Not one to miss an opportunity to cash in, Hollywood has duly responded.
‘Rio 2’ flew into cinemas last week from 20th Century Fox’s computer animation arm, Blue Sky Studios just in time from the Easter holidays.
Brazilian Carlos Saldhana’s film about exotic birds is the first Blue Sky sequel outside the ‘Ice Age’ franchise,
It follows $484 million smash hit ‘Rio’ in 2011 featuring Jesse Eisenberg’s wimpy, domesticated Spix Macaw named Blu Gunderson who is transported from Minnesota to Rio de Janeiro to mate with Anne Hathaway’s feisty Jewel to protect his endangered species.
However with the help of Jermaine Clement’s nasty cockatoo Nigel, a group of smugglers break into the aviary and steal the rare birds in the hope of making a tidy profit.
Blu and Jewel escape but Nigel and the smugglers are desperate to track them down.
As with the first ‘Ice Age’ movie, ‘Rio’ was full of wiseass characters and slapstick moments.
Saldhana duly sticks to the ‘Ice Age’ franchise formula in this sequel by adding more characters.
Blu and Jewel now have a family – Rachel Crow’s music loving Carla, Amandla Steinberg’s bookish Bia and Pierce Gagnon’s impish Tiago – as well as their extended family of other birds and animals from the first film.
The Gundersons decide to up sticks and head for the Amazon Rainforest when they catch the owners of their Rio bird sanctuary, Leslie Mann’s Linda Gunderson and Rodrigo Santoro’s Tulio Monteiro on TV excitedly talking about spotting more Spix Macaws.
After a cross country trek, the Gundersons with their extended family of George Lopez’s Toucan Rafael, will.I.am’s rapping Red-Crested Cardinal, Pedro and Jamie Foxx’s yellow canary Nico arrive in the Rainforest.
However they are pursued by Nigel who spots them en route and is desperate to avenge not being able to fly as a result of a fight with Blu at the end of the first film.
Nigel has two partners in crime, Kristin Chenonweth’s colourful frog Gabi and an anteater with a bowler hat called Charlie.
The Gundersons track down a Spix Macaw flock who have kept themselves out of human sight.
The flock is headed by Andy Garcia’s Eduardo who it turns out is Jewel’s father.
Jewel is delighted to be back in her natural habitat but the ever neurotic Blu feels like a fish out of water (if you pardon the switch of species).
This feeling of isolation magnifies as he battles Edourado’s disdain for his previous cosseted life and struggles with his own insecurity over Jewel’s past with Bruno Mars’ suave Roberto.
Meanwhile, Miguel Ferrer’s lollipop sucking Big Boss is determined to do everything he can to stop Linda and Tulio from having the Spix Macaws declared a protected species because it will ruin his plans to fell fell trees and claim rainforest land.
As with the Ice Age franchise and a lot of family feature lengths cartoons these days, Saldhana and his animators do a wonderful job recreating Brazilian cities and the Amazon.
But in the week when Disney’s double Oscar winner ‘Frozen’ officially became the most profitable feature length cartoon ever, ‘Rio 2’ by comparison leaves you cold.
The plot is overcrowded and tired.
The humour is obvious and grating.
The lack of originality and ingenuity is dispiriting.
Parts of the film feel derivative – must we really have a talent show audition in a family film again? Do we really need our environmental conscience tugged once more? Do we have to have awkward in-laws, again?
The only saving grace is Clement’s deliberately hammy performance as Nigel and Chenonweth’s lovestruck Gabi the frog.
But even Gabi’s attempt at a showstopping song lacks the wit and the guile of Robert and Kristin Anderson-Lopez’s Academy Award winning work on ‘Frozen’ or Brett Mackenzie’s work on ‘The Muppets’ and its flawed sequel ‘Muppets: Most Wanted’.
A scene where the Spix Macaws face off a flock of rival Scarlet Macaws led by Philip Lawrence’s Felipe in a rainforest football match reeks of a calculated bid to cash in on the football fever that will engulf the world this summer.
Just like the ‘Ice Age’ movies, you sense Saldhana’s talented cast are punching in the hours and not really engaging with the story.
The whole venture seems half hearted.
Even the junior film critic in our house was underwhelmed.
‘Rio 2’ will probably perform decently at the box office but don’t expect it to raise your spirits.
(‘Rio 2’ opened in the Moviehouse cinema chain in Northern Ireland and other UK and Irish cinemas on April 4, 2014).