Among the flock of family films comes the fine-feathered saga of Blu (voiced by Jesse Eisenberg), a rare blue macaw snatched from his exotic rainforest home by poachers before he can learn to use his wings. Winding up in a snowy Moose Lake, Minnesota, he’s rescued by young, bespectacled Linda (voiced by Leslie Mann). Because he was so young when he was domesticated, Blu never learns to fly.
Flash forward 15 years, when Tulio (voiced Rodrigo Santoro), a Brazlilian ornithologist, visits Linda’s bookstore and informs her that Blu may be the very last male of his species. For that reason, he wants Linda to bring Blu to his institute in Rio de Janeiro to mate with his female blue macaw Jewel (voiced by Anne Hathaway).
But feisty Jewel is unimpressed by pampered, uber-nerdy Blu’s efforts to win her affections. She’s far more interested in escaping from the bird sanctuary. Their floundering courtship is abruptly interrupted when they’re stolen by another gang of avaricious bird smugglers, led by Marcel (voiced by Carlos Ponce) and his cohort, a cannibalistic cockatoo named Nigel (voiced by Jermaine Clement). Ever-bickering yet bound together, Jewel and Blu escape on foot, since Blu can’t fly, and make their way in extended chase sequences through Rio’s streets during Carnival celebration with its festive music and dance. Eventually, of course, earthbound Blu succumbs to his natural wild instinct and Jewel realizes his worth.
Plus there’s Sergio Mendes’ infectious music, mixing songs by the Black-Eyed Peas, will.i.am and Jamie Foxx with Bebel Gilberto’s and “The Girl From Ipanema.”
Utilizing iridescent 3-D CGI, Brazilian-born director Carlos Saldanh creates a flamboyantly colorful, tropical frolic, demonstrating why Fox’s Blue Sky (“Ice Age” franchise) has joined DreamWorks and Disney/Pixar in the cartoon-boom. Animation has proven a box-office winner so expect “Cars 2,” “Kung-Fu Panda 2,” “Happy Feet 2,” “Puss in Boots,” “Hood vs. Evil” and “Hoodwinked Too!”
For kids, on the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Rio” is a swaggering, splashy 7, even though its predictably stereotypical banality prevents it from ever achieving full flight