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Rio

Nominated for Best Original Song at the 84th Annual Academy Awards…          Found myself delightfully charmed by this on the second go-round. My first visit to it was at the theater with my two boys. We chose the 2-D version. About a third of the way through, my littlest guy had to go to the bathroom…which meant we ALL had to go to the bathroom. That interruption threw off the flow a bit, and I was ready to dismiss this as 2011 came to a close. But a recent cable viewing changed my opinion. It really is a vibrant piece of fluff. But if that fluff is like cotton candy—what’s not to enjoy? It also offers a first-rate voice cast. So, I’m more than ready to recommend this to parents and their kids. And it’s miles more appropriate for them than dreck like “Cars 2”.               It opens with an incredibly exuberant musical number from a legion of singing birds in the most colorful jungle you’ve ever seen. Suddenly, some Brazilian poachers capture and cage some of those singing exotic featherballs. Flash ahead to a crate falling off the back of a truck in snowy Minnesota. Little Linda Gunderson(voiced by Aimee Mann)finds and opens the box on the side of the road, and discovers it contains a rare  blue macaw. Christening her new pet Blu(voiced by Jesse Eisenberg), they become inseparable friends straight into Linda’s adulthood. One day, a Brazilian ornithologist named Tulio(voiced by Rodrigo Santoro)visits Linda with an offer of bringing Blu to Rio de Janeiro for the purpose of having the rare macaw mate with a female he has at his aviary. Upon arrival in Rio, the attempt is made to hook-up Blu with the female, Jewel(voiced by Anne Hathaway). Despite some “mood lighting” and a vintage Lionel Richie song(which, btw, happened to win the Best Original Song Oscar for 1985!), the couple fails to “hit it off”. Soon, they are bird-knapped by smugglers with intentions of garnering a hefty price for the exotic fowl. Chained together, Blu and Jewel manage to escape…but wait. Blu, it seems, has never learned to fly. A series of chases on foot(talon?), the top of a hang glider, a motorcycle and finally, the colorful floats of Rio Carnival, ensue…as Blu and Linda struggle to find one another on the streets of Brazil.               There are some wonderful voice-acting cameos from actors like Jamie Foxx, Tracy Morgan and George Lopez as various birds and other creatures(in the case of Mr. Morgan, a sensitive, slobbering dog). The story is rather simple, and(of course)the outcome should never be in doubt. But the gorgeous animated shots of Rio de Janeiro and the impossible-to-resist samba beats manage to make up for the overly familiar plot line. Even my boys seemed to enjoy this more on the couch than in the theater, so my guess is the under-10 set will give it the thumbs up too.          Grade:   B-

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