The film follows Blu (Jesse Eisenberg), a rare blue macaw who lives in Minnesota with his owner,
Linda (Leslie Mann). When Blu is taken by ornithologist Tulio (Rodrigo Santoro) to Rio de Janeiro in order to mate with the fierce and independent Jewel (Anne Hathaway), he is promptly kidnapped by a group of bird smugglers. Thus, with the help of the other birds of Rio, Blu and Jewel must go on an adventure through the streets of Carnaval in order to escape and return to Linda and Tulio.
From the very first scene (an exhilarating musical number), the film takes full advantage of the resources that are at their disposal automatically from the plot - those being the gorgeous colors and delectable beats of Rio and of Carnaval. The score, helmed by John Powell (one of my favorite underrated film composers), is, needless to say, amazing - and the use of classic bossa nova is intelligent and perfect. And then there's the visual spectacle on display, one of reds, blues, oranges and yellows, put on display most effectively in the climax of the film, which takes place in a Carnaval Parade. It's in this aesthetic care that the film gets its most success.
Also, it's important to mention the quality of the voice acting on display. Though perhaps Rodrigo Santoro takes it too over the top, the rest of the cast is splendid. I'm a shameless Jesse Eisenberg fan, and I loved him here - he was neurotic, funny, and adorable. Anne Hathaway is, well, Anne Hathaway and what's better than that? And then there's Jemaine Clement, whose deliciously evil work as bad bird Nigel is made even better by a musical number that could have come straight out of "Flight of the Conchords".
As much as I wish awesome voice-overs and great aesthetics are enough to make a film succeed completely, they're not. Unfortunately, Rio suffers from an unspectacular screenplay. There's absolutely nothing wrong with it; it flows well, it's funny, and there are unexpected touches of heart here and there. But, it lacks the sparkle that everything else about the movie has, preventing the film as a whole from reaching the heights that it could have.
However, it's impossible not to enjoy Rio. It's cute, adorable, vibrant and totally entertaining. It may not have taken Dreamworks to a Pixar level (and it's certainly no How to Train Your Dragon) but it's still great fun for any age.
See it: if you like any of the actors involved, if you think Dreamworks has potential, if you like bossa nova, if you kind of want to feel like a kid again, if you've ever seen Black Orpheus.
Skip it: if you didn't like How to Train Your Dragon, if Jesse Eisenberg does nothing for you, if you're imperative to cuteness.