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Rio: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy Review

Rio (2011) movie poster Rio

Theatrical Release: April 8, 2011 / Running Time: 96 Minutes / Rating: G

Director: Carlos Saldanha / Writers: Don Rhymer, Joshua Sternin, Jeffrey Ventimilia, Sam Harper (screenplay); Carlos Saldanha, Earl Richey Jones, Todd Jones (story)

Voice Cast: Anne Hathaway (Jewel), Jesse Eisenberg (Tyler Blu Gunderson), Jemaine Clement (Nigel), Leslie Mann (Linda Gunderson), Tracy Morgan (Luiz), will.i.am (Pedro), Rodrigo Santoro (Tulio Monteiro, Soccer Announcer), George Lopez (Rafael), Jamie Foxx (Nico), Jake T. Austin (Fernando), Jane Lynch (Alice), Wanda Sykes (Chloe), Davi Vieira (Armando), Carlos Ponce (Marcel), Jeff Garcia (Tipa, Bat), Bernardo De Paula (Sylvio, Kipo), Bebel Gilberto (Eva), Judah Friedlander (Tourist)

Songs: "Real in Rio", "Pretty Bird", "Hot Wings (I Wanna Party)", "Fly Love", "Real in Rio (New Home)" / All Songs List

Buy Rio from Amazon.com:
Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy • 1-Disc DVD • 2-Disc Party Edition DVD • Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy • Instant Video

While Pixar looks to increase its output to three films every two years and DreamWorks has been churning out five films every two, Blue Sky Studios is moving to a one-a-year schedule. With 2002's Ice Age, Blue Sky established themselves as America's third major provider of computer animated movies. Nine years later, others have joined the fray,
including Disney's feature animation division (now alternating between CGI and traditional 2-D methods), Sony Pictures Animation, Universal's Illumination Entertainment, and Warner Bros. Animation. That's not even counting upstarts (Paramount Animation), the sporadic (Aardman, Vanguard), and fringe units (Crest Animation) that help flood the marketplace with bright, shiny, and often profitable family comedy.

In its first decade of feature films, Greenwich, Connecticut-based Blue Sky has followed a very clear production pattern. Release an Ice Age movie to enormous financial success, then release a movie outside the franchise to smaller but still substantial earnings and slightly more critical acclaim. The allure of the Ice Age series has always eluded me and though the audience for it has plateaued here in the states, the movies remain a phenomenal draw overseas (where the third outing did more than three-fourths of its business in 2009). I've found more to like (but not love) about Blue Sky's first two features outside that prehistoric world, Robots and Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who!. In its spring run, Rio performed similarly to the company's previous two non-Ice Age films, its $143 million domestic gross paling only slightly compared to Pixar and DreamWorks' underperforming summer season sequels, while exceeding the returns of other contemporary animated fare.

Having grown up together in Minnesota, Blu (voiced by Jesse Eisenberg) and Linda (Leslie Mann) have a very close and comfortable relationship.

Rio de Janeiro is the birthplace of Blu, the film's protagonist. In his youth, the blue macaw (voiced by The Social Network's Jesse Eisenberg) is caught in the wild and shipped to the US. En route elsewhere, his cage falls off the truck in snowy, small-town Minnesota. He makes his home there, as the pet of one Linda Gunderson (Leslie Mann), who grows up into a bookstore owner who lives above her shop. Blu has the full run of the store and the house, a cozy, climate-controlled arrangement both he and Linda treasure.

One day, Brazilian ornithologist Tulio Monteiro (Rodrigo Santoro) shows up with the news that Blu alone can prevent his rare species' extinction. Tulio has found a female member of the species and is eager to mate her with Blu to preserve the breed. Though Linda is reluctant to let Blu travel to a distant country, the movie is called Rio, so it's no surprise we end up there before long.

Nor is it a surprise to see that it's not love at first sight for the nerdy Blu and the assertive Jewel (Anne Hathaway), even aided by Lionel Richie's "Say You, Say Me" (one for the parents!). Inevitably, the two birds are let loose in the colorful, hilly metropolis on the eve of the big Carnival celebrations. They wind up chained to each other in the possession of smugglers. When they break out, their journey brings them into contact with a parade of comic supporting characters, including a toucan voiced by George Lopez, a bulldog Tracy Morgan speaks for, and a couple of small birds portrayed by Jamie Foxx and the Black Eyed Peas' will.i.am. Suddenly, Blu's flightlessness stands in the way of almost everything, as he and Jewel plot to break free of each other and reunite with Linda and Tulio.

Blu's (Jesse Eisenberg) first encounter with the feisty Jewel (Anne Hathaway) is less romantic than planned.

Rio is extremely DreamWorksy. The same could be said of films from practically every functioning animation studio out there other than Pixar and sometimes Disney. While Pixar tends to earn the glory and most of the Best Animated Feature Oscars, there is no denying that DreamWorks has done extremely well commercially and that a wide range of people find most of their films diverting.
That apparently is a good enough model for the other studios to aspire to. It homogenizes the marketplace, robs studios of personality, and makes artistry and variety all the more likely to be noticed and to stand the test of time. Though the best efforts of DreamWorks and studios modeled after them don't compare favorably to the weakest Pixar films pre-Cars 2, most of them remain agreeable and preferable to other forms of mass entertainment.

That is the highest praise I can place upon Rio. It's fairly enjoyable and more so than most of this year's movies. But it's also a very paint-by-numbers production, one whose conflicts and resolutions you can clearly foresee about fifteen minutes in.

Unexpectedly, this is a musical, a fact left out of the marketing campaign (along with the prominent human villains). That's not really clear until a half-hour in, when unsightly antagonist cockatoo Nigel (voiced by "Flight of the Conchords" star Jemaine Clement) delivers a nice character-defining number. Most of the other tunes are pop or hip-hop ones, whose lyrics don't seem to matter. This is definitely a half-hearted musical, whose songs mostly seem intended to keep energy flowing, get toes tapping, and add to the film's multimedia marketing assault. At no point does the film think to use the genre to advance its story or convey in song things dialogue could not.

Episodic, scripturally sloppy, and only occasionally funny, Rio might not sound like the good time I said it was. But it is. The whole thing is peppy and spirited. If it seems to capture the flavor of its setting more authentically than even thorough research could have allowed, that might be because director Carlos Saldanha (a director or co-director on four of Blue Sky's first five films) spent the first 23 years of his life living in Rio.

In addition, the film looks amazing. That Blue Sky's latest movie is their best-looking doesn't surprise, but the strides they take here are considerable. Rio does for its eponymous South American city what Cars 2 briefly does for its European and Asian locales. In fact, Rio and Cars 2 lend to a pretty fair comparison in most regards. If Pixar had Blue Sky's spotty track record, we might be talking about how marvelous Cars 2 looks or praising its adventuresomeness instead of declaring it the studio's first genuine disappointment. For Blue Sky, Rio ranks somewhere in the middle of the pack, better than the soon-expanding Ice Age trilogy but slightly less enjoyable than Robots and Horton.

As if we could forget, villainous cockatoo Nigel (Jemaine Clement) reminds us in which part of the world our story takes place. Local little birds Pedro and Nico (voiced by will.i.am and Jamie Foxx) supply advice and rhythm.

Interestingly, Rio changed the future of Pixar. When the studio got wind of the Blue Sky film's endangered species premise, they shelved newt, a similarly conceived project about the last two blue-footed newts on the planet. What would have been released to theaters next June instead is the first publicly announced Pixar film to dematerialize.

Rio was certified fresh at Rotten Tomatoes with a strong 72% on the Tomatometer. More telling than that is the 6.4/10 average score, which clarifies that given the choices of "good" or "bad", most critics would opt for the former (myself included), but not with the enthusiasm they showed on Rango or Winnie the Pooh. I think those two movies have the early lead on next winter's Best Animated Feature Oscar. One more warmly-received animated film and Blue Sky is probably out of the running to pick up their first nomination in the category since the less competitive times of the original Ice Age.

Though Rio might not be remembered at the end of the year, it is being embraced right now. Fox announced on Monday that the film set an August sales record for a family title by selling 2.5 million DVD and Blu-ray units in its first six days. These are more challenging times for home video for that to be an achievement worth celebrating. To put the number into perspective, Shrek 2 sold 11 million DVDs in its first three days in 2004 and 17 million DVD/VHS copies of Finding Nemo were sold in its first five days in stores the previous November.

Rio is now available to own in a single-disc DVD, a two-disc Party Edition DVD, and a 3-disc Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy, which we review here. At the end of the month, Fox will street a 4-disc set adding a Blu-ray 3D presentation to the three other combo discs.

Rio: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy combo pack cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

2.40:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
BD: 5.1 DTS-HD MA (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (Spanish, French, Descriptive Service)
DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, Descriptive Service), Dolby Surround (French, Spanish)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
DVD Closed Captioned; Most Extras Not Subtitled or Captioned
Release Date: August 2, 2011
Three single-sided discs (BD-50, DVD-9 & DVD-5 DVD-ROM)
Suggested Retail Price: $39.99
Blue Keepcase with Side Snap
Also available in 1-Disc DVD ($29.99 SRP), 2-Disc Party Edition DVD ($34.98 SRP),
Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy ($49.99 SRP), and on Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Today's animated films move from computer to disc with no intermediary, thus ensuring the very definition of digital perfection. Rio upholds that tradition, its lush 2.40:1 visuals looking as magnificent in 1080p as any Blu-ray transfer to date. I don't know how even the most critical of video reviewers could find anything lacking about the picture quality here. Or sound quality, for that matter, as the 5.1 DTS-HD master audio mix is lively, immersive, and oh so crisp.

I have to mention that while appreciating these sensory delights, I did experience troubles with playback that seem to result from the combination of a Fox Blu-ray Disc and a Sony player. Many times throughout, playback would freeze and become sluggish, as if watching a DVD through a scene troubled by oily fingerprints.
This is not the first time I've encountered this on a Fox BD, but it was the first time it persisted so frustratingly. Looking into it, it seems as though disconnecting the player's BD-Live Internet connection (an option apparently disallowed by Sony's latest firmware) might alleviate the issue (Fox discs apparently use the connection that even when you're just watching the movie). While I persevered and got through the movie, this is something that Fox's disc authors and Sony's firmware programmers need to sort out ASAP.

The anamorphic picture and Dolby Digital 5.1 sound of the DVD is as impressive as anything on that format is. I'd have been better off trading the slightly lesser standard def picture and more compressed sound for a lack of freezes and skips. The difference between the two formats is apparent, but if you're used to DVD, you won't be disappointed in any way by this one's quality.

The Angry Birds live up to their name, when caged in "Nigel Mashup." Blu reluctantly discovers the joys of fresh fruit in this deleted scene. The Beach is one of four parts of Rio you can explore with photos, video, fun facts, and director insights.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Angry Birds: Rio, the film's savvy tie-in with the popular downloadable mobile video game, gets its own menu section. It holds a creative game trailer (1:32), a "Nigel Mashup" (2:17) putting the Angry Birds in scenes featuring Jemaine Clement's cockatoo, and an exclusive clue video (0:28)

"Fruit Stand", an 85-second deleted scene presented in story reel form, finds Blu trying fruit for the first time, at Jewel's encouragement.

"Explore the World of Rio" is an interactive guide to the film's settings, letting you select icons around static scenes at the beach, stadium, jungle, and city. They lead to photos, videos, short fun facts read to you, and making-of shorts. Though the presentation could be more exciting, it's good material and appropriate for the film.

Leslie Mann records lines as Blu's Minnesotan owner Linda in "Saving the Species: One Voice at a Time." will.i.am talks about various things in "The Making of 'Hot Wings.'"

"Saving the Species: One Voice at a Time" (24:49) is a making-of featurette that, as that subtitle suggests, spends a disproportionate amount of time on the celebrity voice cast. We catch them all on their one camera-ready day, made-up to record their lines and talk about their characters. No part is too small to merit attention, as long as there's a famous face and name behind it. We also hear from the animators who actually, you know, make the movie.

"The Making of Hot Wings" (8:02) takes us behind the scenes of the recording of a will.i.am and Jamie Foxx song, with them and director Carlos Saldanha sounding off on Brazil, musical tastes, and the collaborative process.

"Boom-Boom Tish-Tish: The Sounds of Rio" (13:30) delves further into the film's musical sensibilities, specifically detailing the influence Brazilian legend Sιrgio Mendes (who served as executive music producer) and percussionist Carlinhos Brown had on composer John Powell's score. The piece also expands to cover the choreography the animators employed.

Learn how to dance like Luiz, but watch out for fallen oranges! Taio Cruz is joined by some CG friends in his "Telling the World" music video.

"Carnival Dance-o-Rama" is a short little feature that teaches you how to dance like the movie's characters. To learn their specific moves, choose Blu, Jewel, Nico & Pedro, Rafael, Luiz, or the Monkeys. When you're done with those, you can choose the Samba Line to watch all of the characters parade across the screen twice, trying to emulate them, I guess. Since every one of these segments employs the chorus of "Hot Wings (I Wanna Party)", your tolerance of that song will be put to the test.

A music video for "Welcome to Rio" (1:30) does a nice job of combining song performance and other clips from the movie. Taio Cruz's "Telling the World" music video (1:54) juggles movie clips with sound studio footage, the latter of which creatively and smoothly accompanies the singer with the film's animal characters (recycling suitable lines and animation from the film).

"Rio de JAM-eiro Jukebox" simply plays any or all (8:34) of the movie's five musical numbers. It's a good way to be reminded of the more forgettable tunes.

I made this Rio postcard just for you! Footage of actual Carnival festivities features in "The Real Rio."

"Postcards from Rio" is a fun little activity that lets you make a postcard by grabbing frames from one of a few scenes,
picking one, and adorning it with "stickers" and a phrase. The amount of customization allowed here impresses, as does the fluidity of the exercise. As a nice touch, after you're done, you can access it on your computer to display, save, or print out. This may exceed every DVD set-top game I've seen in terms of enjoyability.

"The Real Rio" (9:31) discusses the city itself, with American voice actors confessing their unfamiliarity and clips showing an eventful six crew member research trip hosted by Saldanha.

The Blu-ray's on-disc bonus features conclude with the film's original theatrical trailer (2:25) and Fox's standard, overly detailed digital copy how-to (3:35).

Under Live Extras, we get the usual, up-to-date smattering of Fox family movie trailers and Blu-ray bonus feature excerpts. Included among them is one exclusive Rio-related item, the short "The Acting Animators" (3:38). It shares with us reference footage of the animators performing character movements (compared in split-screen to the finished animation), along with some comments. You can choose between a lower quality stream and a higher quality download; the former froze for me with 3 minutes left to play, the latter worked without a hitch, though it took around twice as long to load as to watch.

Seemingly identical to the single disc sold on its own, the DVD included here holds just the three Angry Birds: Rio shorts, the deleted scene, the two music videos, and the Rio de JAM-eiro Jukebox song selection feature. The Party Edition DVD's second disc would appear to add most of the extras found on the Blu-ray, everything else but "Postcards from Rio", the Live Extras, and possibly Rio's theatrical trailer.

Typical of a Fox family movie combo pack, Disc 3 is the digital copy platter, offering nothing more than the film in iTunes and Windows Media formats for transfer to your computer and/or portable devices. Since Fox includes this luxury at no extra cost, one can't complain, but where are people going that they can't take a DVD? While I can appreciate that this saves all the trouble of inserting a disc, I can't imagine it offering real value for most people.

Though it should be, Blue Sky's short "Scrat's Continental Crack-Up" isn't designated a bonus feature or even accessible by menu. For once we get a look at something closely resembling the Blu-ray menu, courtesy of Blu's introduction to the disc. (The real thing adds Angry Birds and digital copy tabs on top.)

Recalling the heyday of DVD extras, the Blu-ray and DVD's menus are prefaced by an audio introduction from Blu, who on Blu-ray provides an overview of the disc's many bonus features. On both formats, the main screens simply run festive, musical clips. The BD menu and extras take a long time to load, but the disc flawlessly resumes the movie or menu and supports bookmarks as well.

Both the Blu-ray and DVD open with an ad for Angry Birds: Rio, a promo for digital copies, and the Ice Age short film Scrat's Continental Crack-Up (2:42), which should have been made menu-accessible. The Blu-ray also includes trailers for Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil (a rare piece of Fox-Weinstein cross-promotion) and Mr. Popper's Penguins, while the DVD previews Marley & Me: The Puppy Years.

The combo's three discs fit into a standard slim Blu-ray case, with the Blu-ray and DVD claiming opposite sides of a swinging tray. A whopping four inserts advertise a Rio app, video games, and environmentally-packed h²o water, in addition to supplying your unique codes for unlocking the digital copies and 15 exclusive all-new levels of Angry Birds: Rio. The case is topped by a holographic cardboard slipcover that embosses outlines of the characters.

Since Blu can't fly, he and Jewel make do otherwise, soaring over Rio de Janeiro on a hang glider.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Rio is a fun but overly familiar film, an assessment that can be applied to the majority of today's homogeneous computer animated family comedy. Fortunately, the movie puts the ample flavor of its setting to good use and the handsome visuals and plentiful energy make it easy to overlook cookie-cutter storytelling.

Playback issues aside (and they will tremendously irritate those affected), Fox has put together a winning combo pack for the film, with dazzling picture/sound and a hearty supply of information and fun befitting Rio the movie and Rio the city. While this doesn't have the replay value of Pixar or of DreamWorks' better movies, it will provide enough entertainment to merit admission into many family collections.

Support this site when you buy Rio now from Amazon.com:
Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy / 1-Disc DVD / 2-Disc DVD / Blu-ray 3D Combo / Instant Video

Buy from Amazon.com

Related Report: Rio Release Party in Glendale, California

Related Reviews:
New: The Fox and the Hound & The Fox and the Hound 2 • Soul Surfer • Smurfs: A Magical Smurf Adventure
2011 Animated Movies: Rango • Gnomeo & Juliet • Mars Needs Moms • Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil
South America: Saludos Amigos & The Three Caballeros • Walt & El Grupo • Up • Herbie Goes Bananas
Birds: For the Birds (Pixar Shorts, V1) • The Penguins of Madagascar: I Was a Penguin Zombie • Follow That Bird
Voice Actors in Common: Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa • Marmaduke • G-Force • Despicable Me
Computer Animated Animals: The Wild • Bee Movie • Bolt • Oliver & Company • Kung Fu Panda
Blue Sky Studios: Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who!• Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs

List of Songs Featured in Rio (in order of use): The Rio Singers - "Real in Rio", Tag Team - "Whoomp! There It Is", Ester Dean and Carlinhos Brown - "Let Me Take You to Rio", Lionel Richie - "Say You, Say Me", Carlinhos Brown - "Sapo Cai", Sergio Mendes - "Copacabana Dreams", Jemaine Clement - "Pretty Bird", "Girl from Ipanema", Sergio Mendes featuring Gracinha Leporace - "Mas Que Nada", Siedah Garrett, Carlinhos Brown, Mikael Mutti and Davi Vieira - "Funky Monkey", Carlinhos Brown and Mikael Mutti - "Forro da Fruta", Mikael Mutti - "Balanco Carioca", will.i.am, Jamie Foxx, and Anne Hathaway - "Hot Wings (I Wanna Party)", Jamie Foxx - "Fly Love", "The Chicken Dance", Jesse Eisenberg, Jamie Foxx, Anne Hathaway, George Lopez, will.i.am and The Rio Singers - "Real in Rio (New Home)", Taio Cruz - "Telling the World", Ester Dean - "Take You to Rio"

Buy Rio: Music from the Motion Picture:
Download Amazon MP3s • Buy CD from Amazon.com • Download from iTunes

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Reviewed August 10, 2011.



Text copyright 2011 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright Twentieth Century Fox Animation, Blue Sky Studios, and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.
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