Flocking dork and deceitful bitch road trip.
Jesse Eisenberg has two speeds: superdork nebbish and fast-taking schemer. In RIO 2, he’s phoning it in as the former.
Eisenberg returns as rare macaw parrot Blu, who is now married to his parrot love interest from RIO, Jewel (voice of Anne Hathaway), so there is a noticeable lack of the romantic frisson that drove the last movie; rather, the defining emotion here is jealousy and deceit, as Blu meets Jewel’s old boyfriends from the old ‘hood, and Jewel deceives Blu into her-way-or-the-highway. Also, he and Jewel are parents to three annoying young birds, such clichéd devices they might as well be humans in a White American Sitcom (i.e. the most homogenized banal pablum on Earth). Blu’s constant advice to his rare family is not to adventure too far from the nest, “Birds of blue feathers – flock together!” Makes no difference to the misbehaving kids, a grating element painted as “cute” and “independent” rather than the impertinent snots they would truly be in real life.
RIO 2 is not off to a good start. And it only gets more polly-want-a-cracker…
The theme of this sequel is still about finding oneself, but the dynamics have changed dramatically, not for the better: whereas once a prospective sexy mate led Blu to discovering his powers; now Blu is henpecked into accepting one culture over another, the henpecking euphemized as “Happy wife, happy life.”
All the cast return to play their dutiful roles (Jamie Foxx, George Lopez and Will.i.am as three comedy relief bird sidekicks, Leslie Mann and Rodrigo Santoro as Linda and Tulio, the two human biologists who own Blu and Jewel), all seemingly unaware of the contradictory messages RIO 2 is sending.
Blu and Jewel decide to fly from their home in Rio de Janeiro to the Amazon rainforest, to help their owners locate a rare flock of blue macaws like themselves, whereupon they discover Jewel’s old flock, including her tough old dad Eduardo (Andy Garcia, replete with flat top and militant attitude), and Jewel’s previous suitors (including a parrot with Bruno Mars’ voice), which makes Blu even more stuttery and irritating.
Their plan was to locate the flock, then return home, but unbeknownst to Blu, the discovery of Jewel’s father prompts her to change her mind about leaving. Double standards kick in as Blu is made to look like he is wrong for wanting to leave this paradise – when that was the plan all along. And Jewel is made to look like a tragic lost child returning home. Jewel deceives Blu into thinking she will eventually fly home with him, when she has every intention to stay in the Amazon, and is hoping her father will indoctrinate Blu to the jungle before he realizes it. Jewel is more of a villain than the actual comic relief villain of this movie! But that angle is never even hinted at. Because apparently – in any species – you’re blameless if you’re hot.
The animation (by Blue Sky Studios) is remarkable, and the story is kinetic enough to keep it mildly interesting: Nigel the Shakespearean cockatoo (Jemaine Clement) is the wannabe thespian from the last movie that Blu injured, seeking revenge for his flightlessness. (He performs an eclectic version of I Will Survive that draws on so many cultural refs your head will spin.) And an illegal group of loggers is clearing the rainforest, which the biologists battle. And a flock of red macaws is moving in on Eduardo’s territory. So a lot is happening. But I just don’t care. Maybe it’s my aversion to small birds – chickens and ducks and parrots – and their icky ass feathers.
RIO 2’s frenetic story concludes with another big carnival dance number, that forces a happy ending on us, pretending that Jewel’s deceit didn’t exist, and that Brazilian carnivals solve everything, as blue and red macaws become friends because the script says so, as loggers stop logging and, we presume, the contracts authorizing that logging were all ripped up by avaricious politicians turned environmentalists.
And we have achieved White American Sitcom.