Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Looking Back At: "Rio"

I know I say this a lot for someone who opts to write about films, but sometimes it’s really hard to write anything about a particular movie.  This is usually because there isn’t much one can objectively say about the quality of the film and it comes down to personal preference for the subject matter.  This is generally where documentaries fall.  Sometimes a film is so niche that, unless you understand that very specific sub-genre very well, I only feel qualified to give a superficial analysis.  This is where martial arts films tend to fall for me.  And then there are films so bland and mediocre that it’s really hard to think of anything constructive to say about them, and are so forgettable that you write a whole opening paragraph designed just to stall having to talk about it.  Rio is one of those films.

Rio is a film that seems designed to fill out a balance sheet for Sony Pictures.  Animated kids’ films are guaranteed to make money for any studio because it seems modern parents will take their hyperactive kids to anything, regardless of quality, just to shut them up for an hour and a half.  So, presumably just to have a guaranteed cash cow, Sony pumped money into this safe little film about a parrot trying to get back to his owner in Rio de Janeiro.  The visuals are pretty, the songs are unoffensive to the palette if forgettable, and the story is about as generic as kid’s films go. 

There’s nothing really wrong with Rio… if you’re five years old.  But this is exactly the type of movie that an adult places a kid in front of because they don’t want to deal with the kid for a little while.  The jokes are the type of silly cartoon slapstick that the kids are going to love, and the eclectic cast is designed just interestingly enough to make them marketable as toys, though I’d be hard pressed to remember any of the characters’ names.  But there’s nothing much here remotely resembling writing that adults can find just as entertaining as their kids.

The only part of the film that removed the glaze over my eyes was a musical number by a villainous cockatoo played by Flight of the Conchords’s Jemaine Clement.  The witty lyrics felt like something out of FotC’s songbook, which is appropriate given that Clement was one of the song’s writers.  Unfortunately, that moment ends as abruptly as it starts, and though Clement’s silly evil diction is slightly amusing, it doesn’t save the film from being boring for anyone over the age of ten.

So, if you have kids, I can’t really say that there’s anything here that merits a disrecommendation.  If you’re looking for a cartoon for all ages, though, there’s so much better stuff out there.  Take almost anything out of Pixar’s fantastic catalogue, and you’ll not only find smarter writing, but you’ll find much more creativity and imagination in the visual design as well.  Rio is adequate at what it’s trying to be, but when all it’s trying to be is a money magnet for a parent’s disposable income, that bar is set pretty low. 

I watched this movie in preparation for the Blu-Ray release of Rio 2… I’m not hopeful for where this is going.  Leave your thoughts in a comment below.

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