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Bird’s Eye View of ‘Rio’

Colorful animation overcomes a tired plot, plus Redford’s ‘The Conspirator’

By Lori Hoffman
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Apr. 20, 2011

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RIO, THE NEW ANIMATED 3D extravaganza, isn’t as clever as Rango, but it is certainly better than that rotten egg of a movie, Hop.

Rio features the vibrant colors of its native bird population, great vocal work from Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway and Tracy Morgan and a tired plot that needs the eye-popping animation to keep it flying high.

Our blue-feathered hero is Blu (voiced by Jesse Eisenberg), a macaw who was snatched from his native jungle outside Rio de Janeiro and winds up falling off a truck in Minnesota.

Cold and confused, Blu is found and adopted by Linda (voiced by Leslie Mann) and becomes a loving companion. However, when a bird expert from Brazil, Tulio (voice by Rodrigo Santoro), comes calling to ask Linda to bring her bird to Rio to help the species survive by mating with another blue macaw, Blu soon finds himself in a classic adventure.

Stolen again along with his new female companion Jewel (voice by Anne Hathaway), the city bird that can’t fly must learn how to survive on the streets, joining a crew of new feathered friends and a drooling bulldog (voice by Tracy Morgan).

The movie features numerous musical interludes, including a new single, “Hot Wings (I Wanna Party),” from Will I Am and Jamie Foxx, who play the bird buddies Pedro and Nico in the movie. There is also samba music from composer Sergio Mendes, plus tracks featuring Taio Cruz, Bebel Gilberto and Flight Of The Conchords’ star Jemaine Clement, who also plays the bird villain, Nigel.

This is a movie that will keep the kids enchanted and parents mildly amused throughout. Animated vocal work is a new gig for Eisenberg and he is terrific, giving Blu plenty of personality even when the plot sells his character a little short. Hathaway is also good as Jewel, and Morgan is hilarious as the slobbering pooch Luis, who claims his overwhelming mouth moisture is a “medical condition.”

Add in the carnival parade with its huge floats, dancing and music, and Rio adds up to enough sustained fun to make it a good time out with the family.

The Real Lincoln Lawyer

 The Conspirator, directed by Robert Redford, is an old-fashioned courtroom drama that takes place in the aftermath of the assassination of President Lincoln. The trial centers around the only woman charged in the Lincoln assassination. Mary Surratt (Robin Wright) owned the boarding house where the conspirators gathered. The government really wanted to pressure her to reveal her son’s whereabouts, since they knew he helped plan the murder. Just home from the Civil War, the idealistic attorney Frederick Aiken (James McAvoy) is asked to take the uncomfortable job of defending Surratt. In the anger and frenzy following the assassination, Surratt will be tried in a military court with many of her rights curtailed, making the parallels between then and now in these days of the Patriot Act an obvious subplot.

The acting by McAvoy, Wright and Danny Huston as the zealous prosecutor is excellent, but the snail’s pace of the story gets tiresome. In the end, it is a sometimes interesting history lesson that could have been more compelling.

Rio **½

Directed by Carlos Saldanha; rated G

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