Rafael the Toucan (voiced by George Lopez)

Rafael the Toucan (voiced by George Lopez)

Aisle Seat: Birds of paradise fly in this beauty

Rio: Three and a half stars out of five

  • May. 29, 2011 10:00 a.m.

One of the better looking animated films to come along lately, Rio doesn’t quite soar to the heights of, say, Pixar But then, really… what does?

Rio is the story of Blu (voice of The Social Network’s Jesse Eisenberg), a rare macaw who believes he is the last of his kind.

When Blu’s owner (Leslie Mann) learns that there IS another –– and va-va-voom, it’s indeed a female –– she takes Blu from Minnesota to Rio de Janeiro.

Unfortunately, Blu and his prospective love, Jewel (Anne Hathaway), don’t exactly make birdie sparks: He’s domesticated, she’s fiercely independent. But thrown together when a gang of poachers come looking to cash in, they (predictably) learn to work together, bond, and, well, c’mon, “birds and bees”, anyone? These two make up half of that idiomatic expression.

As mentioned, Rio is ridiculously attractive. Produced by Blue Sky studios, the same team behind Ice Age, the picture is lush and extravagant.  But the content isn’t a complete wash either.

Yes, the concept (another fish-out-of-water, only here it’s more a bird-out-of-state) is stale. But the cast of famous pipes –– not just the perfectly neurotic Eisenberg and strong-willed Hathaway, but supporting players like George Lopez, Tracy Morgan, Jane Lynch and Jaime Foxx –– are all here to actually add zip and personality, not to simply boast a who’s who of top shelf talent.

It’s getting increasingly rare to brand these gigs as actual performances, but in Rio, the stars do come to perform… and they perform very, very well.

Oh, the best part? Rio is genuinely funny. I didn’t have to pretend to laugh to make sure my youngest was having fun; the laughs came naturally.  In a word – refreshing.

The feature is currently playing at Vernon’s Towne Cinema.

–– Jason Armstrong is The Morning Star’s longtime movie reviewer. His column, Aisle Seat, appears every Friday and Sunday.