A vivid and delightful animated spectacle, Rio 2 is chock-full of colorful 3-D wonder and jubilant musical numbers set against a tale of family dynamics and environmental dilemmas.
The sequel opens with a vibrant New Year's Eve bash, as partying in the music-filled streets of Rio de Janeiro is punctuated by fireworks bursting above the Christ the Redeemer statue.
Supervised by composer John Powell, more emphasis has been placed on the music of this film, which benefits from numbers by artists like Bruno Mars (who also voices the smooth bird Roberto in the film), Janelle Monae and celebrated Brazilian musician Carlinhos Brown.
After mating in Brazil in 2011's Rio, rare macaws Blu (Jesse Eisenberg) and Jewel (Anne Hathaway) now have three lively kids who have become accustomed to the same domestication Blu was brought up on in Minnesota. They're attached to gadgets like iPods and eat pancakes for breakfast, which irks the raised-in-the-wild Jewel.
But the family heads off to the Amazon rainforest, to Jewel's delight and Blu's strife, when they get wind that a tribe of blue macaws may live there and are being pursued by Blu's past owner and animal lover, Linda (voiced by Leslie Mann), and her husband, Tulio (Rodrigo Santoro).
With a few of the quirky supporting characters from the first film in tow ? including birds voiced by George Lopez (as frisky toucan Rafael) and Jamie Foxx and will.i.am (as rapping canary-and-cardinal duo Nico and Pedro) ? they soar through a dazzling journey to the rainforest, making the often-wasted 3-D effect worth it as we take in the broad scope and graphically layered flair.
Once there, Jewel discovers the large macaw crew is led by her long-lost father (Andy Garcia), who is unimpressed with his daughter's choice of a mate. He can't help but roll his eyes over Blu's use of a GPS or a Swiss Army kit rather than the use of his own sharp beak. But their classic in-law banter is sublimely comical.
Brazilian native writer-director Carlos Saldanha and Don Rhymer returned to pen the story. But they try too hard to make up for the minimalist plot of the original and drown in subplots: Blu battles with Jewel over staying in the wild versus returning to the city; Linda and Tulio clash with a few bad guys threatening to cut down the rainforest (the film's eco push); and Blu's old rival, Niguel (Jemaine Clement of "Flight of the Conchords"), pops up with a beautiful yet poisonous neon pink and purple frog (an angelic and cutesy Kristin Chenoweth) plotting revenge. Phew!
And then there are the moments when characters break out into song. Niguel's hotshot rendition of Gloria Gaynor's I Will Survive seems a little ill-set when he really should be crooning a sinister track a la Ursula's "Poor Unfortunate Souls" in The Little Mermaid.
The sweet voice of Hathaway shines with her solo lullaby. But it's Chenoweth's Broadway-like delivery that trumps all when she belts out an anthem on forbidden love. Though the original songs here are whimsical and fun, few are irresistible.
With so much going on, it's a wonder this kids' movie is only five minutes longer than the original. But for the music and brilliantly picturesque look, it's worth the 3-D ticket.