'Rio 2' a gorgeous but muddled sequel
Our blue-feathered, computer-animated, 3D friends - the Spix's macaw nuclear family of Blu (Jesse Eisenberg), mate Jewel (Anne Hathaway), and their three kids - return in all their singing, dancing, fun-loving, groovy glory for a mediocre sequel to 20th Century Fox's $90 million hit Rio, which grossed nearly $485 million in 2011.
For Rio 2, director Carlos Saldanha picks up the tale in his native city, Rio de Janeiro.
The Blu family, adopted by the lovely Linda Gunderson (Leslie Mann) and her ornithologist husband Tulio (Rodrigo Santoro), is living a happy, urbane life, content to enjoy iPods, pancakes, soda, and all manner of things human.
The story opens at a fab New Year's Eve street party in Rio. This is not the Rio of gang-, drug-, and gun-infested favelas, but a city where everyone dances and makes merry, including the Blus and their motley group of friends - bulldog Luz (Tracy Morgan), red-crested cardinal and hip-hop versifier Pedro (will.i.am), toco toucan Rafael (George Lopez), and yellow canary Nico (Jamie Foxx).
Led by Jewel, who is worried the family has become too domesticated, they trek deep into the Amazon rain forest. Their animal friends tag along. Eager to enter a winning musical act in the annual carnival, they're hoping to sign up undiscovered talent.
There is hardship. The travelers are dogged by Blu's enemy, a sulphur-crested cockatoo and Shakespearean actor named Nigel (Jemaine Clement), and they're hunted by an evil capitalist dude and his crew of evil logger dudes intent on cashing in on the forest.
Eisenberg has great fun playing Blu, who has become so used to the easy life he treks into the forest with a fanny pack of supplies - including an electric toothbrush, toilet paper, and a GPS tracker. He can't stand bugs, scratchy trees, and the icky food.
Rio 2 is gorgeous to look at. There are some nice tunes and grand production numbers. But the plotting is muddled and the pro-environment message hopelessly facile.
It'll keep the kids content for a couple of hours, though it's likely to bore the grown-ups.
Rio 2 ** (out of four stars)
Directed by Carlos Saldanha. With Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway, Leslie Mann, Bruno Mars, Jemaine Clement, George Lopez, Jamie Foxx, will.i.am. Distributed by 20th Century Fox.
Running time: 1 hour, 41 mins.
Parent's guide: G (all audiences).
Playing at: Area theaters.