Blu will admit it. He’s not the birdliest bird in the flock. But, hey, until recently that wasn’t such a big deal. Blu was raised by a human, you see. And enjoying the plush existence of city life didn’t require a lot of ruffled-feather peck and grit.
In fact, Blu actually thought he was the last of his Blue Spix Macaw kind for a little while there. And he was fine with that. Then he had the good fortune of meeting his beloved Jewel. (Sigh.) And they’ve started a family of their own. Ah, those were the seed and berry days.
Everything has definitely changed now, though. His former owner, Linda, and her geeky ornithologist hubby, Tulio, found clues that there might actually be an entire flock of Blue Spix out somewhere in the Amazon. And wouldn’t you know it, Jewel decides it’s time for the fam to get back to their rainforest roots. (Gulp.)
Well, a happy wife means a happy life, they say. And so Blu, his lovely Jewel, their three kids and a few good friends prepare to set wing from Rio all the way to the Amazon. Of course Blu gathers up a fanny pack full of survival necessities first—GPS, bandages, a handy Swiss knife, suntan lotion and the like—but, ahem, he’s still a little nervous.
There could be all sorts of grave dangers awaiting them, after all. Savage animals. Or, for that matter, savage humans! It’s true. Haven’t you been watching the news? Word has it that a group of illegal loggers are carving up the rainforest and everything in it. (Ugh.)
Then there’s Blu’s former nemesis, Nigel. That cruel cockatoo swore vengeance against Blu after their last meeting. And what about the rumors of all those other Blue Macaws? What if they don’t appreciate Blu’s, uh, city honed sensibilities?
Oh, this could be one rotten egg of a trip.
And, indeed, the trip is full of prickly barbs for old Blu. The flock of Blue Spix Macaws actually turns out to be Jewel’s former flock (and the home of a former strapping blue boyfriend). They welcome her and her kids back with open wings, but cast a suspicious bird’s eye at Blu. Through it all, however, Jewel’s dedication to Blu, and his unwavering devotion to her, both stay strong.
The same thing applies to Blu’s bird friends Rafael, Nico and Pedro, who all volunteer to take the trip to the Amazon in an effort to protect their less-than-jungle-savvy pal. In fact, the film makes a point to stress that friendship, family and marriage should be bonds that hold no matter the circumstances. Linda and Tulio, for instance, find themselves bushwhacked by the evil loggers, but Linda tells her husband, “As bad as this is, there is no place I would rather be than with you.”
The film also points out that love can help us spot the positive in people, no matter how seed-small those positives may be. Example: A poisonous frog named Gabi falls for the generally grumpy and negative Nigel, and sings of her love for him and all she sees in him.
During a New Year’s celebration, fireworks burst behind Rio’s giant statue of Jesus. After a dangerous spill over a waterfall, Linda tells her husband, “Thank heaven you’re OK.” But when Jewel returns to her flock, her Aunt Mimi reports, “I knew you were coming back. I saw it in the droppings.”
Though not really sexual in nature, Gabi expresses her longing to touch and perhaps even kiss Nigel. (Physical contact is out of reach from her due to her deadly nature.)
There’s definitely nothing friendly (eco or otherwise) about the illegal logging operation and the boss man running it. In fact, in between growling about tree-huggers and kicking any living creature that might cross his path, Big Boss strives to snuff out anything and anyone that might jeopardize his business. In one scene, the company’s huge tractors and saw-blade vehicles move to eliminate Linda and Tulio after they’ve been chained to a huge Brazil nut tree. (They escape.) When the loggers string dynamite to a number of trees, Blu bravely snips the explosives free and flies them skyward before they detonate.
Flocks of birds swoop in on the men, pecking them and causing them to tumble and thump into the machinery they’re operating. We see the true nature of predatory rainforest residents from time to time, too. Most of their sharp-toothed action is played for comical effect, but we see, for instance, piranhas gobbling up a bunch of beaver-like creatures, leaving only skeletons behind. A crocodile chomps down on a bird that’s dancing and singing in its mouth. A leopard gobbles up a singing bird, too, and then continues singing the song in her voice. A logger is swallowed up by a python (offscreen).
Blu clumsily thumps and bumps his way through nearly every scene—especially when he’s trying to show Jewel that he’s bird enough to live up to the expectations of the flock. An anteater has his tongue repeatedly pulled and yanked. A porcupine has his quills plucked. And there’s an ongoing threat that Nigel is going to use Gabi’s poisonous excretions to further his deadly schemes of revenge. (His plot backfires.) Linda and Tulio are swept over a huge waterfall.
[Spoiler Warning] When it seems as if Nigel has been killed, a distraught Gabi ingests her own poisonous excretion to end her life (which she no longer things is worth living without Nigel). Given the film’s other Shakespearean nods and references, this seems a clear homage to Romeo and Juliet. What initially appears to be a tragic ending, however, is partially mitigated by the fact that Nigel isn’t actually dead as well as the discovery that Gabi’s excretions aren’t really poisonous after all—thus she’s not killed, either.
Giggling references are made to “poo,” “poop” or “pooping.”
During a New Year’s party, two humans drink champagne.
When it comes to the current collection of animated fare being offered in the movie house jungle nowadays, this pic isn’t really that much of a rare bird. Teens and adults will likely see exactly which direction it’s flying from the outset, and no more than 10 minutes in will be able to predict which story-concluding branch it’ll land on.
But director Carlos Saldanha—with the Ice Age series and the original Rio under his belt—certainly knows how to create something sparkling and colorful for the kiddos. And he’s actually made things even more appealing here by avoiding some of the Mardi Gras miscues and tail feather shaking that fouled the first film’s nest.
That makes this a nice little suet cake that really starts to taste good once it hits its musical theater stride. It praises family, friendship and love, along with positive life-building traits like responsibility and bird-brained determination (albeit with one momentarily disturbing nod to Romeo and Juliet’s tragic storyline that parents may need to navigate with younger viewers). So I guess you could say that Rio 2 manages to save the rainforest without ever raining too hard on your family’s moviegoing parade.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.