Rio 2 Blu-ray Review: Welcome to the Jungle

Although the first Rio didn’t really set the box office on fire or generate frantic demand for further adventures, it was apparently successful enough that the studio forged ahead with this direct sequel. Mostly, it seems like an excuse for Brazilian creator/director Carlos Saldanha to further promote his homeland and its music around the world, and viewed as a travel documentary it’s fairly successful in that quest. As in the original, Rio 2 is filled with authentic and energetic Brazilian music, as well as vibrant representations of the country’s landscape. If only it had a story to match the sumptuous audiovisual canvas.

When last we left our blue-feathered friends, city boy Blu (Jesse Eisenberg) had settled into a comfy wildlife reserve in Brazil with his native wife Jewel (Anne Hathaway), their three babies, and their human companions. The humans are exploring the rainforest in the hopes of discovering more of Blu and Jewel’s species, while the birds are just enjoying quiet family life. When a hidden tribe of the birds is discovered, headed by Jewel’s gruff and commanding father, Blu has to learn the tribal ways of the jungle to fit in with the other birds and earn the respect of his father-in-law. Needless to say, it doesn’t go well for the weak city boy, threatening his relationship with Jewel as well as their choice of home.

Meanwhile, this being the Amazon and all, greedy humans are destroying the rainforest and encroaching on the habitat of the birds. This is where the story predictably goes all Ferngully, with the native residents banding together to fight off the invading machinery and people. This contentious confrontation doesn’t really move to center stage until late in the film though, leaving the bulk of the plot centered on Blu’s attempts to fit in with his native birds. Blu’s adversary Nigel from the first film also pops in for no apparent reason, but spends most of the film on the fringe trying to find Blu before finally having his second shot at defeat late in the game. Frankly, his scenes could have been completely excised with no loss to the film. Blu and Jewel’s kids also get some screentime, but don’t build much character individuality aside from their distinct appearances.

Although the film still carries a Rio title, there’s actually next to no time spent there. Blu’s feathered friends from the first film get a brief moment in the big city before setting out to find Blu in the jungle, leaving the rest of the film set in the wilds. Those wilds are exquisitely realized, with a far greater level of detail than the first film that is especially evident during breathtaking aerial sequences. Music scenes are enriched by luminous bird choreography that recalls Busby Berkeley musicals. This performance footage in the Amazon is the prime reason to get the Blu-ray, delivering the best possible viewing experience with rich and detailed video and sound, conveying rock-solid high definition without artifacting or hiss throughout even the most frenetic moments.

The Blu-ray contains a jungle of standard bonus features, including a deleted scene, a still gallery, a lyric music video, and a Rio refresher. It also includes in-depth looks at the local music of Brazil, the singing talents used in the film, a feature on Nigel the cockatoo, a karaoke function, and a teaser short. But wait, there’s more: for anyone still playing Angry Birds, the Blu-ray unlocks 15 exclusive levels in the ongoing Angry Birds Rio variation launched during the first film’s release. In short, there’s more than enough bonus content to vastly extend the Rio experience, contributing to make the Blu-ray an essential purchase for fans of the franchise.

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Steve Geise

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