Tony, my Partner Domestique (above), is a member of the Visual Effects Society and on Sunday afternoon they hosted a screening of the current 3D animated movie from Blue Sky Studios, "Rio," at the Pixar screening room in Emeryville.
Though not a big animation fan, the movie turned out to be enchanting, the most enjoyable I've seen since the 2007 surfing penguin flick, "Surf's Up."
The evocation of Rio de Janeiro is jaw-droppingly beautiful and gives one a grasp of the geography in a way I've never seen in a movie before. The music director is the legendary Sergio Mendes, who works out of Los Angeles, collaborating with everyone from rappers like will.i.am to full samba choirs. The musical numbers with brightly colored rainforest birds are genuinely psychedelic.
The only miscue is the main character, a rare blue macaw stolen from the Brazilian rainforest, who is raised by a bookish, small-town Minnesota Protestant girl. Somehow, the macaw has turned into a Jewish American adolescent male nerd who needs to learn life lessons in order to get laid ("it's all about parrot sex," as one reviewer put it). He's voiced by Jesse Eisenberg from "The Social Network," and though the actor isn't bad, the concept is so stale it's moldy, especially after a decade of Judd Apatow movies with the same plot.
The movie is a personal project for the Brazilian director Carlos Saldanha, who toiled on the three "Ice Age" movies for Blue Sky Studios in New York before making this film. He was raised in Rio de Janeiro and he's created a great love letter to his hometown, including warts and all. My favorite characters were a pair of fat, buffoonish human males who looked like they stepped out of a Botero painting. Being that they were Brazilian and the movie is set during Carnival, neither one of them is at all self-conscious about cramming themselves into eensy-weensy outfits, which are fabulously silly.
For a wonderful interview with the director by Edward Douglas, click here. My favorite detail is a question about the outrageously outlandish Carnival parade scene in the film.
CS: There are little things in the parade that I love like the crocodiles on skateboards; is that a real thing or is that something you guys made up?
Saldanha: Yeah, it was a real thing. (Laughs)