On paper – or rather, in this digital age, maybe we should say on an iPad touch screen – Rio ought to be a lot of fun. It’s a big, bright, and bouncy animated comedy from the gifted creators of Ice Age. The opening musical number, featuring the exotic birds of Brazil in choreographed flight, is splashy enough to be promising. The CG animation is so colorful it just about glows. And it certainly seems a great idea to have Jesse Eisenberg, with his nerdy-hiccupy eagerness, voice the animated hero, a macaw named Blu who got poached from his native South American rain forest and has grown up as the companion of Linda (Leslie Mann), a Minnesota bookstore owner. The perfectly sturdy bird-out-of-water setup has Blu being taken back down to Rio by ornithologists so that he can mate with Jewel (Anne Hathaway), a gorgeous female macaw. They’re the last two adults of the species. Once there, of course, he must learn how to be a wild bird: how to fly and fall in love.
Despite all that it has going for it, though, Rio is less a Pixar-level pleasure than a busy, frantic, and overstuffed dessert of a movie. There’s scarcely a moment that isn’t straining to entertain you. There’s not just one zany bird sidekick but three, plus a Madagascar–meets–How to Train Your Dragon plot that sprawls and metastasizes as if it were trying to be a movie, a sequel, and a sequel to the sequel. Rio is working so hard to have fun that it doesn’t breathe. The soundtrack, overseen by Sergio Mendes, has a few lively bossa nova moments, but not nearly enough. (The main romantic theme is Lionel Richie’s yechy “Say You, Say Me.”) I wanted to like Rio, I really did, but it’s a party that never quite finds its vibe. C