Landing on home video this week: Rio swoops in with Jesse Eisenberg and Anne Hathaway voicing two rare, lovelorn parrots; Sean Connery stars as a clever monk in the murder mystery The Name of the Rose; and a look at the drama Last Night.
Cats, dogs, rats, and all manner of pets and wild animals have been featured in all kinds of animated movies over the last few decades, 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 quirky, lively, colourful, and beautifully rendered with a modestly 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 as tumultuous as his budding relationship with the spirited Jewel. Eisenberg once again proves himself as the perfect star in 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 will.i.am’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 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.
Features on the DVD cover the range of kid-friendly features, with interactive extras like a tour of the animated and real city of Rio, a making-of featurette on bringing the actors into the animated world, and a look at the music of the film. There’s also an instructional dance feature, to get the kids or adults on their feet, plus an all-too-short feature on “The Real Rio” which shows some of the real inspirational locations of the real-life Rio.
Before Seven Years in Tibet and Enemy at the Gates, French director Jean-Jacques Annaud helmed the adaptation of Italian author Umberto Eco’s medieval murder mystery about a Franciscan monk trying to uncover the truth behind a series of strange deaths in a 14th Century Italian monastery.
Sean Connery stars as William of Baskerville, the monk in question who discovers what appears to be a horrifying series of deaths that seem tied to Devil-worship and demonic possession. With his trusty novice by his side, Adso of Melk, played by an incredibly young Christian Slater, William tries to find the source of the killings, which are somehow tied to one book in the monastery’s library.
Simmering thanks to performances by Connery and F. Murray Abraham as Bernardo Gui, The Name of the Rose is a remarkable, thoughtful mystery that was a truly original concept for its time, and the story still stands up after all these years, thanks largely to the very brainy source material and extensive theological and philosophical references.
Also out this week is Massy Tadjedin’s Last Night, starring Keira Knightley and Sam Worthington.
The duo play Joanna and Michael, a happy couple who have to face temptation when a work trip leaves Michael alone with his beautiful co-worker Laura, played by Eva Mendes, while Joanna meets her old flame Alex, played by Guillaume Canet.
Will they surrender to their temptations, or survive their encounters emotionally intact?
While the concept could be intriguing, and offers a lot of emotional range for the cast, the film and its first-time director have not earned positive reviews from critics.
Kyle Smith of the New York Post wrote in his review, “Suspenseful though it is, the movie is quiet to the point of being sleepy, and Worthington is simply not working out as a screen star.”
While Wesley Morris of the Boston Globe commented of the film, “It’s the sort of movie that thinks cutting between two different stories makes it art. Usually, it feels like an exercise in art. There’s a lot of calisthenics but very little beauty or truth or whatever it is the movie is going for.”