Oh 'Rio,' 'Rio'

Cute, Animated Movie
Makes Case For 3D And 2D

I have yet to pick a side in the 3D vs. 2D debate that currently rages in movie nerd circles across the land. I promise after this is settled we’ll get around to world peace and the national debt.

Anyway, 3D supporters argue that when done correctly (see “Avatar”) the effect is revolutionary and visually transcendent.
Detractors say that 3D is often woefully unnecessary at best, distracting at worst and hardly ever worth the jacked-up ticket price. As their closing argument, 3D-haters will correctly state that colors that normally would be bright and vibrant are dull and muted as a byproduct of the technology that creates the 3D effect.

The reason I haven’t taken a side is that after the hoopla surrounding “Avatar” died down it became clear that 3D wasn’t the second coming of Technicolor and was pretty much going to be reserved for action blockbusters and animation. I was cool with that.

I figured 3D could have its share of the marketplace and that this was a debate that didn’t really need to have winners or losers. That was of course before I saw a movie that somehow managed to make the case for both 3D and 2D almost simultaneously, leaving me maybe even more confused than I had been to start with.

The movie is “Rio,” a fun little animated movie from the people behind the “Ice Age” films. In fact, as an added bonus before the movie, a short featuring Scrat, the bug-eyed squirrel-looking-critter from the “Ice Age” movies is shown. I love Scrat. He and his acorn should be praised with Warner Brothers’ greats like Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner.


As for “Rio,” it is the story of a domesticated blue macaw named Blu (and voiced by Jesse Eisenberg) who never learned to fly and lives with his mousy owner Linda (Leslie Mann) in Minnesota. We soon learn that Blu is the last male of his kind and in order to preserve the future of the species, he and Linda fly to Brazil where Blu meets the last female of his species, the feisty and spirited Jewel (Anne Hathaway). A plot complication involving bird-nappers results in Blu and Jewel escaping into the streets of Rio de Janeiro where they meet up with all manner of wildlife; both friendly and not-so-friendly.

The music in “Rio” is great, as you would expect from a cast that features Jamie Foxx, will.i.am and Jemaine Clement, who channels the musical stylings of his band Flight of the Conchords into a villainous cockatoo named Nigel. But it is the animation of “Rio” that is truly spectacular and where the whole 3D argument rears its ugly head.

The 3D works like gangbusters on several occasions, most notably during a scene where Blu gets a flying lesson on top of a hang glider and we zoom to great heights over the sights of the city. But because of the 3D, the vibrant colors of all the tropical birds never really pop the way they should. This is especially noticeable during a climactic scene during a Carnival parade where I was actually disappointed to be wearing the glasses because it felt like I was witnessing a bright and festive occasion through a tinted window.

But, while I was pining for 2D, I realized had I been watching “Rio” in the traditional format, I would have missed out on the fantastic use of 3D during the hang-glider scene. Conflicted!

I gladly and freely recommend the movie “Rio” itself, which is sweet, funny and boats a toe-tapping soundtrack to boot. But when it comes to seeing it in 3D or 2D, I could make a sound argument for both.

I guess it just comes down to personal preference. Would you rather enjoy the bright, wonderful colors (not to mention a cheaper ticket) in 2D or enjoy the thrill of swooping and soaring over an international city in 3D? Don’t worry, there is no wrong answer as “Rio” will leave you happy either way.

“Rio” is rated PG for mild off-color humor.

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