I recently told a friend that I was planning on reviewing Rio 2, to which she responded “Why do you do this to yourself?” I told her that I feel like I should give all movies a fair chance, despite how they may seem. After all, I have been surprised before, liking films that have received horrible reviews and hating films that are universally acclaimed. I may not have liked the first Rio all that much, but that doesn’t mean that the sequel has to follow in its footsteps. Unfortunately, though, it does, and it starts a downward trajectory in quality for this already middling franchise.
The plot of Rio 2 is a bit of a mess, combining elements of Ferngully, Meet the Parents, and any family vacation film ever made. Blue and Jewel have three children now, all shallow archetypes of the nuclear American family: the surly teenager, the brainy girl, and the rambunctious youngest brother. They all discover that there may be some more blue macaws living in the Amazon, so they decide to fly down to investigate. (The supporting cast of the first film tags along as well for no discernable reason other than to provide an excuse for a filler subplot about finding performers among the Amazon’s residents. That particular thread goes nowhere.) They find the macaws fairly quickly, and they turn out to be Jewel’s long lost tribe, and Blue must try to prove himself to be just as wild as they are in order to fit in.
There’s also a threat from a logging company, and this is where I think the film breaks down. Instead of resolving the conflict between Blue’s urban nature and the tribe’s naturalism, Blue simply becomes the leader in a climax against the loggers, and all previous conflict between Blue, Jewel, and Jewel’s tribe leader father gets swept aside in favor of happy endings. The loggers are as boring and generic as they come, without so much as a name to anyone’s credit, so there isn’t even any enjoyment to be had from villainous antics.
The closest we get to that is the return of Nigel, the film’s first villain, played once again by Jemaine Clement. While you can see that Clement is trying to make the performance entertaining, the script doesn’t give Nigel much to do outside of making continuous foiled attempts to kill Blue. Even when the final confrontation between the two does finally happen, it has zero impact on the story as a whole, and Nigel’s entire storyline could easily have been cut in favor of expediting this tortured experience. The only reason I can think to bring the character back is that Clement’s performance in the first film was about the only thing that made the film bearable, and realizing the same deficiency in this film, the writers attempted to replicate that same magic. However, it doesn’t work, and feels forced and unnecessary.
Ultimately, this film is exactly what it appears to be: a low-effort cash-in sequel. The first Rio was the type of film that would only appeal to the youngest of audiences, and this installment isn’t any different, descending even further into inanity and banality. Your kids may like it, but it’s even less worth your time than the first one.
Why do I do this to myself? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!