From the conveyer belt of Fox Animation, “Rio” comes equipped with a predictable story, perfunctory characters and presentable visuals.
Jesse Eisenberg (“The Social Network”) is the voice of Blu, a macaw who is poached shortly after birth in the jungle and winds up in small-town Minnesota. As the pet of timid bookstore owner Linda (Leslie Mann, “Funny People”), Blu grows up to be so über-domesticated, he never even learns how to fly.
That cozy routine is rattled when an ornithologist arrives to tell Linda that her feathery companion might just be the last of its species. Consequently, Blu must return to Rio de Janeiro to mate with a beautiful female macaw, Jewel (Anne Hathaway, “Love and Other Drugs”).
Blu grudgingly obliges, only to be swept up in tortured adventures involving smugglers, thieving monkeys, street-smart birds, a paternal toucan, an oafish bulldog and a Carnival parade. Despite a surfeit of voice talent that includes Jamie Foxx and Tracy Morgan, only “Flight of the Conchords” star Jemaine Clement registers an impression as a villainous cockatoo.
Director Carlos Saldanha (the “Ice Age” franchise), a native of Rio, fills the screen with bursts of color that pay fitting tribute to his hometown. He doesn’t put nearly as much effort into the picture’s thinly drawn (figuratively speaking) characters. The result is a lot of frantic and breathless action that feels dull.
With Pixar and (to a lesser extent) DreamWorks setting a high bar for family-friendly animation, it’s bewildering that Fox still hasn’t figured out that telling a good story is what matters most.