With “Rio 2,” the creators of “Rio” give us more of everything that their first film had in just the right doses. But if this sequel proves anything, it’s that more is not always better.
There are more stars in this birds-of-the-Amazon musical, with Broadway’s Kristin Chenoweth, Oscar winner Rita Moreno, Andy Garcia and pop star Bruno Mars joining in. And all of them sing. Because there are more tunes.
There are more animals for those stars to play, with Chenoweth voicing an exquisitely animated spotted tree frog, plus anteaters and tapirs, scarlet macaws and pink Amazon River dolphins.
And there’s more story, as Jewel (Anne Hathaway) and Blu (Jesse Eisenberg) take their brood (they now have three kids) into the Amazon to help Linda (Leslie Mann) and her scientist husband Tulio (Rodrigo Santoro) track down a rumored lost, last flock of their species.
But one thing the cluttered, overlong “Rio 2” lacks in extra supply is jokes. A script designed to give cute moments to everybody from the first film as well as all those brought in for the second is a cumbersome, humor-starved affair.
The simple situation of the first film was a nervous flightless pet bird, Blu (Eisenberg), shipped south to ineptly mate with the last female of his breed, the born-to be-wild Jewel (Hathaway). They’re birdnapped and forced to survive in the wild – or on the wild streets of Rio during Carnival. The subtexts of the evils of the tropical bird trade and the destruction of habitat were there, easy for the youngest child to embrace.
The new film is all about that subtext, as Linda and Tulio and Blu and Jewel and Jewel’s old flock (Garcia is her dad, Mars voices an old suitor) race against clear cutters to save the rainforest, full of the Brazil nuts that macaws love.
Their old friends Nico (Jamie Foxx), Pedro (Will i. am) and Rafael (George Lopez) tag along to audition new singing stars for this year’s Carnival, leading to a cross-species “South American Idol” bit (Capoeira Turtles try out their act) that works.
The evil cockatoo Nigel (Jemaine Clement) survived the first film, and with an anteater and lovesick sidekick frog, Gabi (Chenoweth), sets out for revenge. Chenoweth sings the daylights out of the best song in the new film, “Poison Love.” We’d expect no less. Clement does a killer version of “I Will Survive.”
Mostly, though, the humor aims much younger here, with kid-pandering gags. Which is kind of what the movie does by trying to replace the quality of the first film with mere quantity. Blue Sky Animation is back to cranking out good-looking animated sausage to its old “Ice Age” formula, which is a singing, crying shame.