Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Despite Some Obvious Shortcomings, Rio 2 Is Much Better Than It's Predecessor

When I think of Rio, I think of an incredible art and animation department foolishly paired with a lackluster writing team. So it certainly works to Rio 2's favor knowing that not a single "screenplay credit" was given to that original Rio writing crew.
Rio 2 is just a better movie. More to laugh at. More to care about. Even the songs are better... something I recall many people sighting as a strong point of the original (something I seriously disagreed with at the time). So let's get down to it... what worked so much better this time around?

In the original film, (1) it felt as though the setup was far too cumbersome. The trapping of Blue... and  (2) his underwhelming nature as a leading character. (3) The unrecognizable villains (Nigel aside). (4) And the overwhelming supporting cast. I honestly still can't remember all of their names after two films. (5) The music had no real clarity, it felt as though a bunch of pop songs were being transplanted into the movie without any real connection to the story they were trying to tell. (6) And at the core, it basically felt like an empty money grab with no overall point to be found (no I don't think the poacher/smuggler thing actually had any purpose but to make the story move).
So piece by piece... this time around... (1) Blue's family situation is well established rather quickly allowing us audience members time to breath and take in other elements that needed more time to explain. (2) Blue, while still not the most interesting of leading characters, actually did feel like the bird for this particular job... he may not have any specific talents, but when the going got tough he was the only bird who knew how the world actually was... in that way he reminded me of a scientist trying to explain to the rest of the world he wasn't a heathen... something I can certainly tag my emotions onto. (3) Nigel is, quite astonishingly, back even after he was pretty well taken care of in the first film. But this is a good thing, because he provides for half of the worthwhile laughs in this sequel. This time, his character did not carry the heavy burden of being the main bad guy, and at no point did I as an audience member actually worry about his feeble plot for revenge which also managed to work to his favor. I was allowed to like him. And I appreciated that, because at the end of the day, he's another one of the animals not deserving of any less affection than the newly incorporated parrots. (4) The supporting cast was not asked to carry the movie as much this time around (something they clearly failed to do when called on in the first film). Fortunately, this time they felt more like extended cameos that were there more as background noise allowing us to feel like part of the same beautifully designed world of the first one. (5) And the new music actually connected back to the plot! I couldn't believe it. This was almost (almost... key word) a musical this time by nature of the songs and their legitimate purpose to the characters emotional arcs. (6) Lastly, there was a legitimate message wrapped up in this movie. The main villain here was in charge of an illegal deforesting ring and he was out for blood trying to destroy a precious habitat. I do think making a message like this a factor in films like these is important to the growth of children. After all, my generation is certainly better for having had FernGully in our lives.
Overall, Rio 2 really managed to shore up the majority of issues I despised about the first film. And I appreciate seeing these guys come back and inject a level of quality into their project. Something I initially did not think would be possible. Check it out or don't, but at the end of the day it's worth noting that this sequel is superior in almost every way to the original.

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