Film Friday: ‘Rio’ and ‘Scream 4’

by W. Andrew Powell
A scene from the movie Rio

Opening this week in theatres: Jesse Eisenberg voices the parrot Blu in the animated comedy, Rio; and Neve Campbell returns for the latest installment of Wes Craven’s slasher franchise, Scream 4.

Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway, Leslie Mann,, Jamie Foxx, Tracy Morgan, George Lopez
Director: Carlos Saldanha

Rated: 8/10

Cats, dogs, rats, and all manner of pets and wild animals have been featured in all kinds of animated movies over the years, but parrots don’t get a lot of love on the big screen unless they’re on the shoulder of a pirate, and even then they tend to be a bit one dimensional.

Director Carlos Saldanha, best known for his Ice Age films, takes to the streets of Rio in this animated story that finally gives our feathered friends some screen time, with a big environmental message at the same time.

Jesse Eisenberg stars as the voice of Blu, a blue Macaw who was captured as a baby in the jungles of Brazil and ended up as a pet in a small town in Minnesota where he was lovingly raised by the bookish Linda, voiced by Leslie Mann.

Through some miracle that is never explained, a Brazilian parrot scientist and preservationist named Túlio, voiced by Rodrigo Santoro, shows up at Linda’s book store to convince her to bring Blu to Rio because he is the last known male blue Macaw in the world, and they already have the last known female. The hope is that the two will fall in love, but when Blu finally meets the feisty beauty Jewel, voiced by Anne Hathaway, a team of smugglers captures the two rare birds and plans to sell them to the highest bidder.

As Linda starts looking for her treasured friend with the help of Túlio, Blu and Jewel manage to escape the smugglers and go on an adventure in the streets of Rio as Carnivale begins.

Capturing Rio and the jungles of Brazil in all its picturesque beauty, and a little bit of its grime as well, Saldanha’s animated film is lively, colourful, and beautifully rendered with a fun, touching story that left me smiling and laughing all the way through.

Eisenberg’s Blu is a sweetly innocent brainiac of a bird, with a measure of courage, and his journey through Rio is eye-opening, as is his budding relationship with the spirited Jewel. Eisenberg once again proves himself as the perfect star for this sweet and musical film, and while Hathaway has some great moments, she didn’t really stand out for me as much as some of the other characters, like the surprisingly interesting Toucan Rafael, voiced by George Lopez, or Jamie Foxx’s canary character, Nico. Even’s Pedro ends up stealing some of the show from Hathaway. I think it’s safe to say that a lot of Jewel’s best moments come down to the animation, whether you blame that on the script or not, while I think Eisenberg’s voice work adds a lot of flavour to the character.

The film has some eye-popping moments, especially during the musical scenes, with overall good animation that perfectly captures the movements of parrots and birds, but there is not a lot of unique character or flavour to the animation. The story could have used a little more energy and thought too, but the characters are so endearing, and the pace is so captivating, with quick-paced music to match, that it’s easily forgivable.

Rio is a delight, and as a parrot owner myself, I appreciate all of the touches that were put into the film’s story and characters, and I also agree with the underlying message that seems to speak out against keeping parrots as pets. While they can make wonderful companions, too many are taken from their natural habitat, and most of these animals are far too clever to be kept happy in a cage.

Scream 4
Starring: Neve Campbell, David Arquette, Courteney Cox, Emma Roberts, Hayden Panettiere, Rory Culkin
Director: Wes Craven

Director Wes Craven has resurrected the Scream franchise once again, bringing familiar and new faces together as the masked killer Ghostface returns to Woodsboro for a bloody killing spree as Sidney Prescott, played by Neve Campbell, comes home for a visit.

Co-starring David Arquette and Courteney Cox once more, as Dewey and Gale, the Ghostface of Scream 4 has changed since the last time, and the killer is now twisting up their film references with horror remakes and modern slasher films, which forces the survivors to band together to try and defeat the maniacal killer.

All I can say is, really, what year is it? 1996? That’s the only way I can explain how Canada’s own Neve Campbell has top billing on a new film. Either that or a film executive seriously felt like throwing the actress a bone for old time’s sake. On top of that, can someone remind me what happened in Scream 2 and 3, because everything since the original film is pretty much a blur now.

Not surprisingly, many of the more serious critics had a hard time finding anything to like about Scream 4. The Hollywood Reporter’s Todd McCarthy wrote, “The film very quickly, and tediously, becomes more of the same old and Craven thing — self-referential film buff gags accompanied by a clockwork killing spree that seriously reduces the population of a small town.”

There were some critics, however, who were glad to praise the film, including Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle, who wrote: “Scream 4 is a strange concoction, clever and self-knowing in the extreme and yet operating in primal ways that bypass wit. Something about it feels very modern.”

New films opening April 22:

African Cats
Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Big Happy Family
Water For Elephants

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