‘Rio’: The Reviews Are In!

Critics swoon over CG animation so colorful it 'glows' in this Brazilian bird tale voiced by Jesse Eisenberg, will.i.am and others

If “Hop” has proved anything with its two straight weekends at the top of the box office (including a $37.5 million debut), it’s that animated fare is so often review-proof. The Russell Brand-starring tale about the Easter Bunny has owned the multiplex all this month despite being a critical dud.

Now comes “Rio,” a film that not only has been garnering stellar reviews but is dropping into theaters as spring vacations unleash students from schools around the country. Is it any surprise, then, that some box-office prognosticators are suggesting the 3-D flick could gross as much as $50 million in its opening weekend?

Critics have been lauding the film’s eye-popping visuals, winning musical numbers and memorable cast of supporting characters. The only criticisms, it seems, are that “Rio” perhaps jams too much wackiness into its 96-minute running time. For those assessments and more, read on for what the critics are saying about the movie.

The Story
“The opening musical number, featuring the exotic birds of Brazil in choreographed flight, is splashy enough to be promising. The CG animation is so colorful it just about glows. And it certainly seems a great idea to have Jesse Eisenberg, with his nerdy-hiccupy eagerness, voice the animated hero, a macaw named Blu who got poached from his native South American rain forest and has grown up as the companion of Linda (Leslie Mann), a Minnesota bookstore owner. The perfectly sturdy bird-out-of-water setup has Blu being taken back down to Rio by ornithologists so that he can mate with Jewel (Anne Hathaway), a gorgeous female macaw. They’re the last two adults of the species. Once there, of course, he must learn how to be a wild bird: how to fly and fall in love.” — Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly

The Performances
“Eisenberg’s tremulous voice is just right for Blu, giving him a neurotic, urban, understated wit. ‘You know how people say, “It’s a jungle out there?” ‘ he complains to Jewel when they find themselves in the middle of a rain forest. ‘Not a good thing.’ He gets strong support from Tracy Morgan as a bulldog, George Lopez as a toucan, and will.i.am and Jamie Foxx as friendly birds. But the star of the show in every respect is a cockatoo named Nigel (Jemaine Clement of HBO’s ‘Flight of the Conchords’), one of the most masterfully animated characters in movie history.” — Nell Minow, Chicago Sun-Times

The Looks and the Sounds
“Produced by the team responsible for ‘Ice Age,’ the far more colorful ‘Rio’ bursts with the native beauty of Brazil, from the taut tushies on Ipanema to the familiar sights of Corcovado and Rio’s cramped favelas. Composers John Powell and the great Sergio Mendes take their cues from samba and Antonio Carlos Jobim to create a musical backdrop every bit as evocative as the dazzling visuals, which exploit the flora, fauna and distinctively built environment for all their jewel-toned riches.” — Ann Hornaday, The Washington Post

The Dissenters
“Too many supporting characters of too little comic distinction compete for our attention in ‘Rio,’ including a pack of martial-arts-trained marmosets designed to give the penguins of ‘Madagascar’ some spinoff competition. The movie isn’t dull, exactly; the problem lies in the other, antsy direction. Culminating in a melee taking place during the annual celebration of Carnaval, the movie makes it difficult to enjoy its party vibe. Serial kidnappings have a way of harshing the tropical mellow.” — Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

The Final Word
” ‘Rio’ is such a delight, so much better than anything we’ve seen in animated form this year, that you won’t mind the 3-D premium prices, you won’t hate that your children want to watch the Blu-ray over and over again when it comes out on video, and won’t dread the compulsion they’ll feel to do sequels — lots and lots of sequels — and probably spoil it as they do.” — Roger Moore, Orlando Sentinel

Check out everything we’ve got on “Rio.”

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