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Courtesy of Blue Sky STUDIOS

Eduardo (Andy Garcia) shows his daughter Jewel (Anne Hathaway) and his three grandkids Carla (Rachel Crow), Bia (Amandla Stenberg), and Tiago (Pierce Gangon), the wonders of Amazon.

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★★★★★

Rio 2

Directed by Carlos Saldanha

Starring Jesse Eisenberg and Anne Hathaway

Rated G

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If you liked Rio, you absolutely have to watch Rio 2. The first movie was great, but its sequel is nothing short of extraordinary. Honestly, I do not think an animated comedy — when constrained to have a blue macaw as its main character — can get any better than this. I took my whole family to see it, and we had a blast!

Rio 2 takes over where the first movie ended: a rare blue macaw, Blu (Jesse Eisenberg) has finally found a significant other, Jewel (Anne Hathaway). The pair and their three little ones are widely believed to be the last of an otherwise extinct species.

When a serendipitous discovery in the depths of the Brazilian jungle suggests there may be other blue macaws living in the wild, Jewel takes the whole family and a group of close friends in a quest to heart of the Amazon, to find her roots. Besides the obstacles that nature throws in their way, the gang also has to deal with the machinations of Blu’s nemesis, the Machiavellian cockatoo Nigel (Jemaine Clement), and his unconditional sidekick, Gabi (Kristin Chenoweth), a poisonous pink frog.

For children, Rio 2 works like a spell. My five year old daughter was absorbed throughout the whole movie — and it is no easy feat to keep her attention on one specific thing for that long. She was singing along, and dancing in her seat. When the credits rolled, she said “That was great,” later adding: “I really loved the movie.” She kept singing and dancing that afternoon as she played the Rio 2 games featured in the movie’s official website.

After I played her some clips from the movie I found on the web, she said: “Daddy, I wish I could see the whole movie again.” And today, as I was writing this review, she was peeking over my shoulder. When I asked her for an official comment, she said: “It was really great. It was also real funny.” So, I’d say my daughter approves of this movie.

My wife and I had fun too. I found myself laughing out at several points, and there was a smile in my face throughout the whole thing. Surely with adults in mind, the script is thoroughly ‘punched’ with clever jokes that will be enjoyable by parents, including several brilliant jabs at modern life in general and GPS navigation in particular (a timely “Recalculating” made the whole theater break in laughter).

Possibly due to my new sunny disposition, my favorite character in the whole movie was the tiny Gabi, whose psychopathic tendencies and soft-mannered killer instinct blended magically with her impossible love for Nigel. Her love song for the cockatoo (Kristin Chenoweth has a fantastic voice) is an instant classic.

The film is a visual extravaganza. As a computer buff, I can’t help but marvel at the quality achieved by computer animation. The textures are just breathtaking: the beaks and feathers of the birds, the translucent skin of the frog, and the leaves trees in the forest, have a flawless, photorealistic quality to them that makes it evident this movie was a work of love. The 3D is used to great effect in panoramic views of Rio de Janeiro, so majestic and colorful they reminded me of Ratatouille’s Paris shots.

The 3D also adds immensely to the experience of the Amazonian jungle (in particular, a scene involving a small canoe and a waterfall) and to the choreography of the birds, which is just jaw-dropping. And the music! The music is the soul of the movie. The cast features several top-notch musicians, including Bruno Mars, and their talents are put to good use, to such an extent that I would even call Rio 2 a musical comedy.

The film’s only flaw in my eyes was the use of the bulldog character, Luiz (Tracy Morgan), whose excessive and viscous salivation is as gratuitous as it is annoying. Luiz is a legacy from the first Rio movie. This character added nothing and in fact, subtracted a lot from an otherwise perfect experience. Oh, and I still do not like the soda cap hat worn by the little yellow bird, and I am not — and have never been — a big fan of George Lopez.

Nevertheless, Rio 2 is — in my opinion — the best thing to come from Blue Sky Studios so far. I will be really surprised if this movie is not nominated for an Oscar for best animated movie, and maybe also for best song. I strongly recommend it, and I am looking forward to Rio 3 already.