I really admire the work of Blue Sky Studios. Even if I'm not a fan of the sequels they put out, I still really enjoy their original animated movies and how beautiful the animation is in them. I feel lots of effort is really put into making their original animated movies really good and "Rio" is another example of why it works. Unlike the sequel which felt very mean spirited and messy, the first "Rio" really is a fun and very enjoyable film that shows that animated films don't have to be groundbreaking or deep to still be enjoyable. Even if this film doesn't reach new heights like films from other studios, it still is very enjoyable and I really did have a lot of fun watching it.
In a quiet little town in Minnesota, a blue macaw named Blu (Jesse Eisenberg) has been living a highly domesticated life with his owner Linda (Leslie Mann) after she found him fifteen years ago. However, when an ornithologist from Rio de Janeiro named Tulio (Rodrigo Santoro) tells Linda that Blu is the last male of his kind, he encourages her to take Blu to Rio during the season of Carnival in order for him to hopefully breed with the last female blue macaw named Jewel (Anne Hathaway). However, Jewel and Blu cannot stand each other as Jewel yearns to be free and in the wild while Blu wants to be with Linda. Things only get stranger when the two birds are captured by smugglers who plan on selling the birds out of the country and have a leg chain put on them preventing them to go their own separate ways. While they both escape the smugglers, they also face a problem. Blu never knew how to fly unlike Jewel and therefore must travel on foot to try to get the chain off. Along the way they come across a toucan named Rafael (George Lopez), and a cardinal and canary named Pedro and Nico (will.i.am and Jamie Foxx respectively) and they set off on adventure to get the chain off of Blu and Jewel and avoid the smugglers and their cockatoo Nigel (Jemaine Clement).
Even if the story wasn't anything big, I will admit that it is still easy to follow, unlike the sequel. The film has a very good balance between the journey of the birds, as well as Linda and Tulio's story arc. Not only that, the film was really fun. It had a very nice mix of comedy and a few dramatic moments as well as some fun and catchy song numbers to boast. I also loved how we got to see a little bit of the Brazilian culture including the festival of Carnival which is like Mardi Gras in a sense as well as the rich music of samba. I think it's a great way to get children and even adults more interested in world culture. As far as the animation goes, it's outstanding once again from Blue Sky. I loved how detailed the city of Rio de Janeiro was as well as the forest next to it. Though the thing that really stood out was the vast amount of colors. This is one of the most colorful animated movies I've seen in a very long time. The feathers of the macaws all were vastly so vastly detailed, richly rendered, and simply beautiful that it was really a fun film to watch. Even the main characters were a lot of fun. I really liked the character of Blu and his quirky nature that he has and Jesse Eisenberg was really the perfect actor to play him. After his dry and serious role of Mark Zuckerberg in "The Social Network", Eisenberg really showed that he could still do fun and quirky characters here. Jewel is also a character that I did admire and could understand her dreams as she's been kept in a sanctuary most of her life and dreams of flying free. Even the side characters like Rafael, Pedro, and Nico all were pleasant and funny and didn't annoy me. Though I will say, one character that I think didn't work too much was Nigel. Although Clement did a fine job in his performance, I feel his character could've been better. I thought his backstory on why he was evil was weak and I found him more annoying than menacing at times. The smugglers did have some threat to them and also provided some funny moments, but Nigel simply felt more like a nuisance rather than a threat. Still, though, he's probably the only character I didn't like.
"Rio" still is a very fun and enjoyable film with an easy to follow and fun story, beautiful and colorful animation, as well as some likable and enjoyable characters that I feel, is more than enough for me to give a recommendation. The movie isn't amazing and definitely won't be seen as one of the best animated movies ever made, but it's still a simple and fun animated movie and since it still works like that, then that's more than fine with me.