Rio Entertains Kids but Has Its Flaws

by on January 30th, 2015
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I recently secured a copy of the 2011 animated movie Rio from Netflix and watched it with my two daughters, Olivia and June. Olivia is five years old; June is four years old. These are our impressions.

No worries. There are no spoilers in here.

The Specs

Rio is rated G according to Netflix and the movie’s official website and rated PG according to Yahoo! Movies. It’s 96 minutes in length and advertised as being from the creators of Ice Age.

Jesse Eisenberg–of Zombieland and The Social Network fame–voices the main character, Blu. Blu is a macaw who is believed to be the last male of his kind. At the request of a goofy Brazilian ornithologist, Tulio, Blu and his human owner, Lisa, begrudgingly venture out from their domestic life in Moose Lake, Minnesota, to travel to a bird sanctuary in Rio de Janeiro during Carnival in an attempt to continue the species with the last known female, Jewel–voiced by Anne Hathaway.

Blu and Jewel almost immediately wind up bird-napped by black market exotic pet dealers, and their ensuing adventures with characters voiced by George Lopez,, Jamie Foxx, and Tracy Morgan are the basis of the movie.

Olivia’s Opinion

My five-year-old, Olivia, enjoyed the movie. She is easily bored, but Rio’s fast-moving plot and colorful animation kept her attention throughout. She seemed to especially like George Lopez’s toucan character, Rafael. I heard her chuckle at a couple of Rafael’s antics throughout the movie. I also heard her humming along to some of the salsa music that was central to the show.

When I asked her the next morning about what part she liked the best, she said, “Everything!”

It’s probably a good thing that she can’t remember the bird-napper’s cockatoo, Nigel, which scared her while she was watching the show. There was one scene in particular where Nigel sings a song about his history that led Olivia to take refuge in my arms and cover her eyes.

June’s Opinion

My four-year-old, June, also enjoyed the movie. She doesn’t have the attention span issues that Olivia does, so she was mesmerized the entire time. She found humor in Jamie Foxx’s character–a little yellow canary with a bottle cap for a hat–and in all the silly slapstick humor throughout the movie, starting with Tulio slipping on ice in Minnesota, smashing his face up against a glass window, and then slowly sliding down to the ground.

She also disliked Nigel, although she didn’t seem as visibly affected as Olivia was. She is generally more even-keeled than Olivia is, though. When I asked her the next morning if there were any parts of the movie that she didn’t like, she couldn’t even remember Nigel.

Dad’s Opinion

I have sat through more kids’ movies than I dare to think about, and they have ranged from brutally excruciating (Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel) to one of my favorite movies of all-time (Up).

Rio fell somewhere in the middle.

It certainly wasn’t painful to watch, but it wasn’t all that great, either. The movie provided a couple of chuckles for parents that went over the kids’ heads, but I found it difficult to really latch on to any of the characters and root for them.

Of all the characters, I enjoyed Rafael the most. When we first meet Rafael and his kids, it’s something with which every parent can identify. What I liked most about Rafael, though, was how he interacted with his wife. I would have enjoyed getting to “know” Rafael a little better in the movie. The other characters, though, left me uninterested.

In fact, Blu annoyed me after awhile. Morgan’s bulldog character was not only not funny–I’m not a fan of the comedian on 30 Rock, either–but he was gross. The inevitable budding romances between characters were forced and without any rhyme or reason, and the human characters were straight out of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.

Linda (Rio) was Sam Sparks (Cloudy) with glasses.

Tulio (Rio) was Flint Lockwood (Cloudy) with glasses.

The monkeys in Rio looked nearly identical to Flint’s pet, Steve, in Cloudy. Maybe Rio should have tried putting their monkeys in glasses.

I felt in a lot of respects that I had already seen Rio before, and I half-expected food to start falling from the sky.

From a parent’s standpoint, my only complaints surround Nigel. I thought he was too scary for too long to be in a G-rated movie. I had my doubts about the monkeys at first, too, but at least they didn’t stay scary for long, and they provided a fair amount of slapstick comic relief. The monkeys didn’t seem to bother either Olivia or June.

My other complaint involving Nigel was his fate at the end of a couple scenes, including the climax of the movie. Neither scene was explicitly graphic, and viewers were assured that Nigel impossibly survived both experiences, but both scenes led my girls to ask me, “What happened? Is he dead?” Again, too much for a G-rated film, in my opinion.

It’s worth a rent–especially if you haven’t seen Cloudy or don’t mind a total lack of originality–but my advice to parents is to approach it as a PG movie, rather than a G movie, especially if your little viewers are around Olivia and June’s ages.

I gave it three stars on Netflix, which signifies “liked it.” It was better than two stars (“didn’t like it”) but not good enough for four (“really liked it”).

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