A nerdy macaw leaves the comforts of his cage in small town Minnesota and heads to Rio de Janeiro. He embarks on the adventure of a lifetime, learning to open himself up to all that life has to offer along the way.

Bird-brained animated comedy that won’t fly.

How could the creative brainstrust responsible for the enormously successful and cleverly-constructed Ice Age movies come up with something as infantile, unfunny and uninspiring as Rio 3D?

I’m not sure but I expect the top brass at 20th Century Fox will be asking some searching questions of their colleagues at Blue Sky Studios when the box office returns start rolling in for this expensive misfire, another black mark for 3D’s sinking reputation.

On paper it must have looked like a no-brainer considering the director Carlos Saldanha directed or co-directed all three Ice Age movies as well as Robots and the executive producer is Chris Wedge, an Oscar-winning director and producer and Blue Sky’s co-founder.

The voice cast is top-notch, led by Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway, Leslie Mann, will.i.am, George Lopez and Jamie Foxx. So why does the movie lack the wit, style and sophistication that have become Blue Sky’s trademarks? For that a large measure of blame must be apportioned to the script—and to Saldanha for shooting it.

The screenplay was written by Don Rhymer, whose credits include the Big Mommas capers and The Santa Clause 2; Joshua Sternin and Jeffrey Ventimila (Yogi Bear, Tooth Fairy); and Sam Harper (Cheaper by the Dozen and the sequel plus Just Married). Rhymer also wrote Surf’s Up but apart from that, why would Fox and Blue Sky have chosen writers with that pedigree?

Beats me. The result is a movie that’s desperately lacking in laughs and relies primarily on slapstick – birds and animals falling over or flying or running into things – for its attempts at humour.

Eisenberg voices Blu, a macaw born in the jungles of Brazil who’s captured by smugglers and sent to the US where he ends up being adopted by a girl named Linda who lives in Minnesota.

Flash forward 15 years and Linda (Mann), who lives alone and runs a bookshop, and Blu are inseparable. He acts as her alarm clock; she feeds him cookies and hot chocolate with marshmallows. Blu has never learned how to fly despite reading a pile of books about the science of aeronautics and figuring out the 'quadrated vector angles" he’d need for lift off.

They’re a cosy, if unorthodox couple, until an eccentric scientist from Brazil named Tulio (Rodrigo Santoro) turns up and declares that Blu is the last male of his kind and he wants Blu to come to Rio to meet and mate with the last female macaw named Jewel (Hathaway) to ensure the species survives.

How Tulio tracked down Blu to a small town in Minnesota isn’t explained but such lack of logic isn’t likely to bother the target audience – kids aged up to 10. Linda demurs but finally agrees to make the trip. However noisy, crowded Rio is a culture shock for Blu and he doesn’t hit it off with the feisty, high-spirited Jewel. The non-lovebirds are stolen and held captive, chained by the legs, by a smuggler named Marcel (Carlos Ponce), a strange-looking dude with dreadlocks, ear-rings and sunglasses. Marcel’s 'enforcer" is Nigel (Flight of the Conchords’ Jemaine Clement) a menacing, high-camp cockatoo and former soap opera star. (Huh?)

From that point on three things are certain: Blu and Jewel will be rescued; romance will blossom; and Blu will conquer his fear of flying.

It was smart casting to have Eisenberg voice a shy 'nerd bird," as he’s referred to by other birds, although it’s highly doubtful that anyone who enjoyed The Social Network will be curious to see Rio. Hathaway is suitably sassy as Jewel and Foxx and will.i.am are meant to inject a bit of levity as Nico the canary and Pedro the cardinal. Lopez voices Rafael, a toucan who takes Blu under his wing

Surprisingly, given the input of executive music producer Sergio Mendes, the music is mostly insipid apart from one pulsating number during the Carnival sequence. Among the bland offerings are the Foxx/will.i.am duet 'Hot Wings' (I Wanna Party) and 'Pretty Bird', Nigel’s song which includes the corny lyric, 'Like an abandoned school I have no principles."

With such a threadbare story and uninspiring characters, 3D adds minimal value. It’s strictly for little kids, with little or nothing to amuse or entertain adults.

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1 hour 36 min
In Cinemas 07 April 2011,
Wed, 09/28/2011 - 11