Rio Review

Rio comes across as an animated travel brochure, so beautifully rendered, colorful, and bright, Rio DeJaneiro has never looked better. You could hang glide, take in the parades of Carnivale, and enjoy the sites of a cannibalistic bird eating his own kind. Ah, paradise.

Okay, it’s not all beaches, sun, and pleasantries, Rio’s narrative surrounded with a number of seedy slums, rundown birds, and poachers in it for a quick buck. Shove a spoiled rotten, flightless blue Macaw in the mix, and the mixture is primed for hijinks.

Named Blu (a not-so-subtle nod to Blu-ray? Hmm…), this Jessie Eisenberg-voiced creation becomes one of the last of his kind, forced to mate with the only female left, Jewel (Anne Hathaway). Eisdenberg’s voice work is staggeringly obvious, maybe just because his voice is so recognizable, or the performance is rather drab. Still, his failed mating ritual lands the pair in predicable trouble, priming the animated fare for the introduction of side characters.

And side characters it will produce, bringing with a wide array of wildlife and not so “wild” life, Rio at times feeling like a gloriously colorful toy commercial. Birds, crazed monkey thieves, slobbering pooches, and more bird species than likely still exist on that small peninsula all get their moment in the picture.

So be it if it keeps Rio moving, rarely repetitious even as the birds make their ‘nth escape attempt. There’s always something fresh or appealing, maybe not in terms of the action, but certainly in the visuals. No doubt the film exists to ape 3D for all its worth, first-person (first-bird?) viewpoints galore here as the chaos increases. Things poke out at the screen, and those glamorous shots of the city on the coast line are primed for depth.

There are a number of songs to pep this one up too, Blu himself stating it, “all sounds alike,” which is hardly a misnomer. Jermaine Clement’s turn as the villain is the only real musical highlight, a wonderfully deviant, harshly worded spoken number that embodies everything evil. The film also sort of descends into that whole “man is evil” speech, the opening alone enough to send PETA members into a tizzy. It’s been done, but it’s not enough to write off the fun, cleverness, and beauty of this animated bit. There are too many laughs abound for a wide audience, and the visuals never stop producing something to look at.

Movie ★★★★☆ 

Come 2012, we’ll look back on 2011 and likely remember a few select releases that stood out in some way. Rio, as of right now, could very well dominate all. There is simply: So. Much. Color. It’s a ferocious assault on your TV’s capabilities, glistening and gleaming with such intensity, and not a lick of an orange/teal combination anywhere. Halleluiah, praise be to Rio.

It’s not that other animated fare isn’t just as rich or as pure. Just a few weeks ago, Rango was the latest in this line of “must see” animated discs, but there’s definitely something special here. It’s certainly the attention to detail, the slight caricature of the structures and houses enough to make it marginally surreal without losing the punch from reality. Looking over the city from those rolling jungles is just awe-inspiring, sights so beautiful cinematographers would kill for a shot like that. Here, it was created, and it’s doubtful you’ll see anything more stunningly magnificent this year.

Actually, take that back. You probably will if you finish Rio, the movie climaxing on a parade where every float, every light, and every person has a different shade or hue to offer. It’s bursting with nothing short of perfection, and the dazzling definition keeps sequins, décor, and a wide audience in view. This is all without bringing up the captivating animation work on the feathers and fur of these creatures, lovingly rendered and fluffing with the best of them.

You might spot some coarseness with Rio, motion accentuated with a sort of dithering effect. It’s been done before (even Toy Story did it), action scenes appearing to break up as they reach a feverish pace. It’s purely part of the animation, not an encode fault, Fox’s compressionists pulling out all stops, even avoiding a perfect opportunity for some banding against a moon-lit sky. The slight hint of aliasing? Well, that’s a resolution issue. This is still a marvel of the format, Blue Sky creating something that can rival even Pixar in terms of visual prowess.

Video ★★★★★ 

As visually arresting as it may be, Rio is no joke audibly either, a raucous DTS-HD mix overloaded with precision and fullness. Music stands as the highlights, songs never shy about wiggling their way into the surrounds, this after an assault on the brilliantly split stereos. Singing birds zip around the soundfield, their voices tracking ever so precisely into the proper channel.

Action scenes prove equally absorbing, a chase through a beach front while on a glider bumping into tourists, sending random objects flying, and utilizing the spacious sound stage for all its worth. The jungle proves lively even if nothing extravagant is happening, insects and birds calling out consistently, this mix eating it all up and spitting it out for a true 360 degree environment.

Subwoofer fanatics get a taste too, a party at 53:00 ferocious with its low-end throb. It’s so clean, pure, and tight, it becomes a sequence worth going back to just to appreciate how flawlessly mixed it is. Dialogue sits over the bass without fault, the sub never giving much to help out.

Audio ★★★★★ 

This review is based off a featureless rental copy since Fox never provides screeners in time for release. That doesn’t help customers make timely decisions.

Extras ☆☆☆☆☆