There are a couple of ways to make a sequel. The “Hangover” school of thought, for example, dictates that all successors lazily follow the same formula with only the minutest of variations. The “G.I. Joe” route, on the other hand, is more like an Etch a Sketch: The writers find a way to wipe out previous characters to make way for fresh faces.
“Rio 2” introduces a hybrid approach, which might be called “hoarding.” Not only does it incorporate the story lines and characters from the original, but it also adds new villains and complications, making it an overstuffed mess of too many personalities and plot points. I never thought I’d say this, but maybe the “Hangover” strategy isn’t so bad after all.
The animated movie returns to the story of Blu (voiced by Jesse Eisenberg) and Jewel (Anne Hathaway), two Spix’s macaws living at a sanctuary in Rio de Janeiro with their three bird-children. Blu is your typical embarrassing dad with a fanny pack filled with emergency supplies and an aversion to the tiniest inkling of adventure. But Jewel is more of a free spirit, so when she hears that another group of blue macaws has been spotted in the Amazon, she decides the family needs to take flight and track them down.
Blu is not too jazzed about the idea but seems heartened to be joined by his old pals Nico the canary (Jamie Foxx) and the cardinal Pedro (voiced by musician Will.I.Am), who are using the trip as a way to recruit talent for the next Carnival. Almost as soon as the group leaves town, they’re spotted by the villain from the original “Rio,” the now flightless cockatoo Nigel (Jemaine Clement), who is hellbent on revenge. His new sidekicks are Charlie the mute anteater and Gabi (Kristin Chenoweth), a creepy and annoying poisonous frog who has a not-so-secret crush on Nigel.
Once Blu and family make it to the Amazon, they realize that the other group of macaws isn’t just any flock; its leader is Eduardo (Andy García), Jewel’s long-lost father. Eduardo doesn’t exactly hit it off with his dorky, city-dwelling son-in-law, and tension between Blu and Jewel begins to brew.
As if that’s not enough to fill a kid’s movie, there’s also a parallel plot with Blu and Jewel’s matchmakers, an ornithologist named Tulio (Rodrigo Santoro) and his wife, Linda (Leslie Mann). They find themselves up against a lollipop-sucking, cowboy boot-wearing logger who will resort to evil tactics in order to keep illegally cutting down trees.
There’s more, too, including an “American Idol”-like talent tryout, a love triangle between Blu, Jewel and her old pal Roberto (Bruno Mars), and a “West Side Story”-caliber rivalry between the Spix’s macaws and the scarlet macaws that share the rain forest.
Like the first movie, “Rio 2” looks great with vibrant colors and lovely animation that pop off the screen. And among the many layers of plots, some are winners. One of the most successful is the talent competition. “Rio 2” is curiously devoid of decent comedy, but the song-and-dance routines, which are beautifully choreographed, lead to the movie’s biggest laughs, especially when the contestants keep getting eaten by predators.
All in all, though, the movie feels at once too busy and too derivative. That’s no easy feat, but it’s also one sequel-makers probably shouldn’t aspire to.
G. At area theaters. Contains some scary images of villains on bulldozers and man-eating snakes.