Who's In It: The voices of Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway, Jamie Foxx, George Lopez, Will.i.Am, Tracy Morgan, Leslie Mann, Jane Lynch, Jemaine Clement, Wanda Sykes
The Basics: A flightless, domesticated macaw named Blu (Eisenberg) is believed to be the only one of his kind. And he's content with his life as the lone exotic bird living in a Minnesota bookstore. But when his owner takes him to Brazil to be mated with the world's last female macaw, Blu's orderly life turns into a frenzy of rainforest danger, rare animal smugglers, love life complications, exuberant Carnaval-themed dance numbers and the endlessly irritating presence of will.i.am.
What's The Deal: I've finally given in and accepted the fact that the glut of 3D animated talking animal movies is probably never going to end. Occasionally one like Rango will come along and it'll be visually stunning and smart and idiosyncratic enough to stand out from the pack. But for every one of those films, there are half a dozen like this. Now, if all you need from an animated feature is that explosive, spinning, colorburst of dazzling light, this one will do you just fine. In fact, that element is more than fine; it deserves a lot of praise. But it's tough to be satisfied by something that merely looks good when everything those good looks prop up (a hero's journey, an antagonistic love interest who eventually warms to the hero, characters finding strengths they never knew they had--it's like these scripts are just extra long MadLibs waiting to be filled in) is as generic and forgettable as the cartoon you paid fifteen bucks to see last week.
Weird Subtext About "Book Learnin'": Because his entire world before Rio was the cozy confinement of a bookstore, the character of Blu is repeatedly told by animal after animal that he needs to stop thinking so much and follow his heart. I don't know where you live but it seems to me that what the world needs now--and what this movie's kid audience really needs now--is a little less cultural emphasis on gut instinct and heartfelt ignorance and a little more pushing of wisdom and facts gleaned from reading the occasional book. So thanks for that, movie. You just made teachers everywhere a little more exhausted.
Why I Never Want To Hear Jesse Eisenberg's Voice In An Animated Musical Ever Again: His voice is too distinctive, too much his own. It's next to impossible to watch Blu and not mentally graft Eisenberg's face onto the bird (it's why Phyllis Diller's character in Mad Monster Party looked exactly like Phyllis Diller). Anne Hathaway gets away with this kind of thing easily. So did Mandy Moore in Tangled. But it's difficult to sit through this film wondering when the macaw is going to tear someone apart with lightning fast, Social Network-style verbal insults.
Why It'll Be Hugely Popular: It's inoffensive. There's nothing insulting or hateful about it. It hits all the familiar marks that children require and it won't annoy parents. Wait, sorry, I take that back. It will annoy parents who hate the Black Eyed Peas. Because right in the middle of the song score comes a brutally stupid track called "Hot Wings (I Wanna Party)." And it's exactly what you think it is.