Avian animation has a spotty track record. For every Chicken Run, Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole, or Surf’s Up, there’s a Free Birds, Valiant, or Happy Feet 2. The first Rio had a great many flaws, but was still a competent movie. Rio 2 has fewer overall problems on a narrative or technical level, but the main issue the movie has is so critical that it deflates the film.
Following the events of the original Rio, Blu (Jesse Eisenberg) and Jewel (Anne Hathaway) — the last two known blue macaws — had fallen in love and started a family, Blu’s former owner Linda (Leslie Mann) had fallen in love with ornithologist Túlio (Rodrigo Santoro), and the evil cockatoo Nigel (Jemaine Clement) had seemingly met his demise.
Rio 2 picks up a short while later, with Blu, Jewel, and their three children living a domesticated life in Rio de Janeiro (going against Jewel’s wild instincts). When Linda and Túlio, now exploring the Amazon, discover what may be more blue macaws, Blu, Jewel, and the kids pack up and fly off to find them. (Spoiler alert: They do.)
Sequels can often suffer from a bloating, “more is better” syndrome, the worst symptom of which is having far too many subplots. (Think Spider-Man 3.) Rio 2 has so many subplots, most of which only affect the main storyline incidentally, it seems to barely know what it wants to be.
Rio 2 starts off as the story of a couple falling apart because of their innate differences. (Blu is domesticated and Jewel is free bird at heart.) Once they join the other blue macaws — including Andy Garcia as Jewel’s long-lost father — it adds a “Meet the Parents” thread. Then there’s the hot stud of the blue macaw tribe (Bruno Mars), who allows the movie to re-tread the same, tired plotline of the nebbish guy worrying about not being macho enough to impress his significant other.
But wait, there’s more! There are also subplots about: a talent show run by Rafael, Nico, and Pedro (George Lopez, Jamie Foxx, and will.i.am); Nigel hunting Blu down to exact his revenge; a war between the blue macaws and the neighbouring scarlet macaws; Linda and Túlio trying to track down the blue macaw tribe; and an evil logging baron determined to clear-cut the Amazon.
The jokes are a little funnier this time around (although the characters remain either unlikeable or interchangeable), and the new songs are a huge improvement over the original’s forgettable soundtrack. Ultimately, though, the cluttered script kills almost every chance for momentum to build. Under the weight of so many extraneous characters and storylines, Rio 2 just can’t take off.