Save the Amazon rainforest (and birds) so Fox can keep making Rio sequels

Rio 2 aimlessly flutters its storytelling wings in a search for something concrete, instead discovering a number of inoperable plot tumors. Five credited writers clash with a mish-mash of avian adventure ideas, all clumsily structured and told in disconnected chunks.

It’s colorful. That’s something to generate buzz for Rio 2. Blue Sky’s original animation trended toward a travelogue of Rio’s seaside beauty, with the sequel swerving into the thicket of the Amazon for a generous helping of greenery. That also means a liberal spiting, tree chopping madman who lives only to cut trees. Rio 2’s lackluster trail of character definition is too lackadaisical for base substance.

After all, film’s need villains, and environment slashing humans are readily appropriated as evil. But, Rio 2 is not done. Territory wars bring about a pithy conflict with rival jungle birds, and Nigel (Jermaine Clement) miraculously returns as a the third tier of in-film villainy. Confused super hero films have fewer bad guys than Rio 2.

This is a film of growth, even if Rio 2 exhibits little of its own internally. Blu (Jesse Eisenberg) is again ripped from his home of comfort food and Rio citizenry, plucked away by his affectionate wife under the guise of a vacation and involuntarily committing to a story arc. Therein, Rio 2 further washes itself in more new characters, spilling over into vibrant musical numbers whether narrative backing supports them or not.

Fox appears to have built this sequel in a purposeful (and comfortable) structure, enough that kids will be soaking up future installments, even if the initial concept bled the entire thing dry. Rio 2 is haggard and molting after its initial burst of re-introductions, determined to release its flock of celebrity voices even if for a minute.

Like an unfortunate many, this tepid drip of plot succumbs to one-off gags which exist outside of its main avian stars. Some ponderous karate turtles, big eyed infants, and Blu’s own dangerous (if pointless) kids are the high-end laughs. Blu is meant to wean into the message – that of adapting to change and exiting comfort zones – while a hackneyed, tiresome rainforest parable batters the background. It’s not Fern Gully, yet shards of the overwrought ’90s feature are clearly among us. For Rio 2, it’s a customary sequel of regurgitation, loudness, music, and color. Beautiful, if superficial. [xrr rating=3/5 label=Movie]

Stunning color @ 1:05:05

It’s 2014’s biggest shocker: Rio 2 is absolutely lovely. Wait, that’s not shocking at all. Once again, animation surpasses almost all on this HD format, with a subtle leap in quality over the first Rio by exhibiting better texture density and feather fidelity.

Yes, we have come to a point of desperation, where things such as “feather fidelity” need consideration. Attributes of sharpness, color space, black levels, and contrast are all but passe – and perfect. Rio 2’s exhibition of saturated antics cross into any number of video quality territories. It is of the top tier because it should be and anything less would be gross disappointment.

The sequel’s switch in locale is a visual change, booting the human-oriented Rio for jungles rich in ample greenery. Plant life stretches into backdrops without so much as a flicker of aliasing to distract from their hardened clarity. Images of waterfalls dazzle with their constructed awe, while musical numbers topple with lights and other wild bits of flamboyance.

There are encode challenges, including an opening confetti drop. You’ll find nothing wrong here though. Skylines are free of banding and even amongst layers of feathers, there are no worries of intrusion by compression.

On the dimensional side, Rio 2 slips away a touch. Foliage is a dominating factor, and the virtual camera adores it. Peering through leaves reveals an array of natural layering into the distance. Hokey examples of 3D are embedded here too, in particular a pop-up book gag and a soccer match with a ball constantly being kicked toward the lens. Those effects break the front plane convincingly.

It’s the rest of the material which has reservations. Most of the creatures have beaks that seem hindered by an invisible wall, preventing them from breaking through. Depth is soured during scenes of conversation. In reality, this somewhat dimmed approach to 3D is only so due to competition, but said competition is also the first Rio which rocked the full expanse of three dimensions. It is doubtful anyone will suffer dissatisfaction with this disc, but there are those who do it better. [xrr rating=5/5 label=2D-Video] [xrr rating=4/5 label=3D-Video]

While Rio 2 may often miss the additional surrounds of its 7.1 space, it is no less rich in audio. This change in environment invites ambient noises in the extreme, keeping the jungle alive no matter the scenario. Spread into the stereos and their companion rears is exceptional, and a few tracking shots will allow for examples. A TV punches in from the side and travels perfectly into the center, while later, some construction vehicles split off into the rears.

A few highlights are brought about by musical numbers, and in this case, one of them is the opening. Thumping bass is appreciated. In a later scene, human characters near their doom on some rapids, with the eventual waterfall drop proving exceptionally well conceived sonically. Finally, the non-climactic soccer match will keep birds whipping by for the duration. [xrr rating=5/5 label=Audio]

Minor bonuses are universally skippable, unless you need a refresher on the first movie since one is offered. Boom, Shake, Snap peers into the local sound of Brazil for almost 20-minutes, a nice bit of musical culture. The follow-up is a dull groaner on the voice actors, and a featurette on the villain is equally so. Some music content (sing alongs, video) and a sole deleted scene are followed by the basic trailers/stills. [xrr rating=2/5 label=Extras]


Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.

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