Keeping it “RIO” in 2011

There’s no denying that Jesse Eisenberg is pretty much the man in Hollywood right now. Unless you consider his performance in 2011’s “Rio”, in which he’s not a man at all. Instead, Eisenberg trades in his “Zombieland” shotgun-toting zombie killer for a set of cerulean blue wings as Blu, a male blue macaw who ventures from the chilly climates of Minnesota to the Carnival scene of Rio de Janeiro to mate with Jewel (Anne Hathaway), a female blue macaw.

“Rio” is a delightful family film featuring dazzling colors, an all-star cast, and a soundtrack overloaded with catchy melodies that will manage to stick with you far beyond seeing the film. The film resides in the realm of other children’s films with social and eco-friendly messages, not only focusing on the importance of the love of friends and family but also sharing important messages regarding animal smuggling. Blu’s journey from over-tamed “pet” to a free spirit encourages children and grown-ups alike to “spread their wings” and dare to be bold enough to take all the important “leaps of faith” of life.

Beyond Jesse Eisenberg and Anne Hathaway’s performances, “Rio” features the vocal talents of George Lopez as a Carnival-crazy Toucan, and Jamie Foxx as samba-loving Rio native birds, Wanda Sykes and Jane Lynch as Canadian Geese who get their honks mocking Blu, and The Flying Concords’ Jemaine Clement as the “feathery freak” cockatoo villain.

What drives this film is its engaging sense of humor, which appeals to children and adults alike. Eisenberg, already well-known for his frequent stammering, awkward heroes, translates this awkward heroism delightfully into a feathered-version. His Blu stammers, stumbles, and inexplicably sweats his way through the film. Jamie Foxx and provide limitless songs, samba, and swagger. Tracy Morgan’s performance as a bulldog with a “medical condition” that makes him drool adds a wackier sense of humor to the film, while Bebel Gilberto provides a touch of inside-joke humor as George Lopez’s Toucan wife who provides a tone-deaf rendition of “The Girl from Ipanema”, a song first made a classic by her father Joao Gilberto and then-wife Astrud Gilberto.

It’s true that “Rio” wasn’t shattering any box office records, and the critics were probably right when they said it was a little “overstuffed” … but when the extra stuffing is tons of comedy, a little romance, and musical numbers that make you want to stand up and get down in the middle of a movie theater (and I’d be lying if I denied almost doing just that on any one of the four times I saw the movie in theaters), I’d say it’s a forgivable flaw that makes this film just as delightful as cheese and sprinkles (it’s a Minnesota thing).

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