If you put a fully loaded gun to my head and asked me to remember the plot to the first RIO film, I'm afraid my brains would soon be all over my laptop. That's how special that movie was for me. I guess the best thing I can say about RIO 2 is that five days after seeing it, I still vaguely recall a highlight reel of sequences in my head that might add up to most of a complete film. I think there are some birds in it, and most of the action doesn't take place anywhere near Rio de Janeiro. Hooked yet?
This time around, the rare blue macaw named Blu (voiced by Jesse Eisenberg) and his companion Jewel (Anne Hathaway) discover that there may be more of their species deep in the Amazon jungle. So they set out looking for this legendary pocket of rare birds and stumble upon Jewel's family (or as I like to call them, the Family Jewel). They drag their three kids (yes, they procreated) and a bunch of the birds and non-birds from the first film and take a little vacation in this isolated paradise filled with macaws. In the natural sanctuary, Blu is challenged by Jewel's father (Andy Garcia) and her old flame, the suave Roberto (singer Bruno Marz), and before long a rift develops between the love birds. Blu wants to return to his human friends in Rio, while she wants to stay with her human-hating family.
I know the first RIO was loaded with newly recorded music, and I guess that's how this franchise is distinguishing itself, but loading its cast with singers, including Mars, will.i.am, Rita Moreno, Sergio Mendes, Janelle Monáe, Kristin Chenoweth—as well as a few actors who have proven themselves solid singers, such as Hathaway, Jaime Foxx, Jermaine Clement and not Eisenberg—makes for some catchy tunes but not the most interesting characters, created to cram in the singing.
By the end of the film, its true purpose is revealed as the humans (in the form of a logging company) come ripping through the jungle with chainsaws, bulldozers and other heavy machinery, tearing down trees and leaving these exotic creatures with no where to live or worse. The environmental message is front and center of RIO 2, and while there's certainly nothing wrong with that, it does make an entire lengthy sequence in which two factions of birds fight over a single Brazil nut grove seem rather meaningless and time consuming.
The entire film is harmless enough, but uninspired animation, a thread-bare plot held together by a "Save the Rainforest" message, and a few toe-tapping Latino pop songs aren't enough to recommend the film, even to people with younger children. Seriously, I bet you could buy the RIO stuffed animals from the store, and your kids could come up with 10 better stories than RIO 2 has.