AWFJ Women On Film – “Rio” – Review by Susan Granger

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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

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.