Sunday, July 8, 2012

Movie Watch 2012 - "Rio" (2011)


So, I wasn't particularly interested in seeing Rio (2011) when it was released in theaters.  Goodness knows I like going to see kids' movies, especially those by Pixar and Disney, but Rio struck me as the sort of movie that's become standard fare from Dreamworks and other animation companies, and which has plagued Disney animation itself since Aladdin scored huge bucks at the box office.  And, truthfully, I'm not sure the animation companies are exactly wrong in their assessment since they keep making money...

But the idea is this:

Anything said in a wacky voice = funny.
Wacky voices include: anything that doesn't sound like a standard non-regional American accent.  Thus, George Lopez is assured work in animation until he goes mute or dies.
The faster a line is delivered, the wackier and thus, funnier a line is.  Even if it's just "I'm going to wash the dishes".  Say it with zing and a hint of latino flavor and BAM.  Comedy.
Also:  characters must pop into a new pose every 2-5 seconds unless experiencing the pre-requisite pity party for all animated leads, in which case they must move extra slowly, and with terrific slouching.

Again, I blame Aladdin.   Somehow Robin Williams burned through the last of whatever appeal he'd had channeling through Genie, and every movie since has been struggling to replicate the (at the time) shocking appeal of a character that pushed the boundaries of what we expected in a Disney movie, breaking the fourth wall, indulging in anachronisms and basically acting as a chaos agent.

Movies like Shrek decided this was good fun, and basically made a whole movie that was Genie.

Because kids are always being made fresh, and they tend to laugh at things that go boom or squish, the idea that Walt Disney had that he was animating storybooks for an all-ages audience has been mostly forgotten and is now the domain of a way to kill 90 minutes where you can only half-focus on your kids as they half-focus on a screen, and to keep their little attention-deprived brains on the flickery, pretty lights, everything in every animated movie has become Genie.

You guys remember that Beauty and the Beast was up for an Academy Award as best picture?  It was.  It's a really beautiful, all-ages, film, still.

So, that's a lot of pre-amble to explain how I felt about Rio.

Rio is a technical masterpiece using a phenomenal palette, the Escher-esque ziggurat of Rio de Janeiro as the setting, deft 3D animated camera work, astounding character design and realization of bird and monkey characters...  to create a completely forgettable, derivative and in-no-way funny movie in which birds basically get mangled repeatedly as one of them attempts to unite with his owner.

It's not a bad movie, but it's not a good movie.  It's an incredibly poorly scripted movie that could have used someone with an actual sense of humor to touch up the script and make it relevant to an audience older than the age of 5 or 6 who has never seen this storyline before.  Or, you know, to add actual jokes to the movie that so, so badly wants to be funny but feels like that kid in your class in high school who just repeated impressions from Saturday Night Live and drew a low chuckle from people remembering Phil Hartman's skit rather than anything the kid actually did (and, of course, if you don't chuckle a little, you're going to break the little bastard's heart).

The whole movie, in this way, is sort of an echo of better movies with better plots, actual songs, comedy, etc...  and feels so utterly unnecessary.  Wordlwide, it made a half billion dollars, so I'm thinking nobody really gives a crap about any of that, but they do want to get the hell out of the house with the kids and remember what it was like going to the movies before the kids, with the hope that one day they will see one of these movies that isn't just a trainwreck.

It's made by some of the same folks who keep trotting out the really, really not good Ice Age movies (people, you do not have to keep seeing these movies.  The first one was awful.) if that gives you any idea of what you're in for.  Celebrity voices.  The occasional poopie joke.  And!   Lots!  of!  Quick!  Line!  Delivery! With!  Snap!!!!!

In other words, I may not have been the intended audience for this movie.


Simon MacDonald said...

Good, I thought I was the only one who noticed that George Lopez is in every animated movie that isn't released out of Pixar. Also, was it wrong to be attracted to Jewel? I know she was a blue bird but Anne Hathaway am I right?

Zombiegrrrl said...

I saw it n the theater with my then 3 year old. It was no Toy Story but he liked it. It was also very pretty and not too insipid for me to sit through. His peers seem to also like it. I agree it's not a great film. For something made for his age group, though, it is higher on the scale of something i could sit through again. So, yes, I think you might not be the intended audience - kids under 10 and their parents (who pray for something not so stupid as to inspire eye gouging). :).

The League said...

Yeah. I guess what I'm trying to get at is that there's this genre of kids movie that's harmless, but it never strives to be anything but a disposable way to distract the kiddos for a short time. It's a far cry from the intentions of Walt Disney when he moved into features, which were incredibly hard to pull off in the early years of Snow White, etc... and so he focused on an all-ages approach rather than bright colors and erratic movement.

I get that parents actually need these kinds of diversions, and, yeah! the movie was good enough that I did finish it with the awareness intact that "oh, this was one of the 'let's get out of the house and see a movie' movies". I just wish I had better radar for when I'm seeing one of these versus when I'm seeing the next Ratatouille.

The League said...

@simon - I always find the attempts to give a bit of human feminine appearance to animals an exercise in personal discomfort. Somehow applied to a bird, it was even weirder. But, you know, between that and them dropping the human lead into a bikini with a macaw head and wings, I can see how your synapses may been firing in all sorts of random directions.

Simon MacDonald said...

@Ryan - The next movie I will see Anne Hathaway in she'll be a cat. How am I supposed to feel about that? I'm a very confused man right now.

The League said...

Good Furry vs. Bad Furry is the challenge besetting our generation.