The Lonely Kids.
It’s a day late, I know. I’ve been rather busy lately. So much so that I’ve been considering moving updates to Sunday, but I’m not 100% sure that’s the best move to take here. Let’s just assume that if there’s no comic on Saturday, you can expect it on Sunday. But hey — this means the spanish translation’s also available right now, so there you go.
And though I was busy throughout the week, I really wanted to go to the movies no matter what — last week I didn’t go because I had family over, so I felt like the movies were just slipping away from me. The Paulina García movie did, in fact, slip away. It’s no longer available at my local theater. Now if I want to catch it I gotta take a couple of subway rides, which, even if it’s not something terribly far, given the current schedule I’m working with makes it kinda tough to go check it out right now. I’ll try later down the line, or if during the week I get a free couple of hours to make movie-watching-ends meet.
But the same couldn’t be said for that other movie I mentioned last week, Carlos Saldanha’s Rio 2. It’s still healthily around. This friday I went there to finally caught up with the Blue Sky folks and…
… it was pretty bad.
A movie this bad is hard to tackle on why it’s bad. It’s not interestingly bad, nor it’s so-bad-it’s-good kind of bad. And… well, all things considered, boring it’s not either. At least, not completely. “Needless” is probably more like it, but here’s the thing: a movie could be needless but still be good, or at least, passable. We certainly didn’t need Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, but it was fun and quirky regardless. It let itself go after the high-stake tension of the previous films. It didn’t concern itself with raising the bar, but rather it played around with tropes of impending apocalypse and the awkwardness of saving these two near-strangers so they could lead a rage against the machines… after they hooked up.
But about Rio 2, here’s the thing: this movie was absolutely needless, true. But it didn’t need to be this blatant about it. The original Rio was about Blu and Jewel — the last male and female macaws of their kind. They have to get it on, but it’s clear that he’s not up to her standarts. He can’t fly, he’s never been to the wildforest, he’s too much of a city bird, all those things. But amidst a villain plot that took them all across Rio de Janeiro (well, “across” meaning going from carnavals to favelas and not much else), they fall in love and they hatch three little kids. Spoiler alert.
It was a movie about these two birds getting together… and they did! They’re together, even if they’re the only ones around. But now, we find out that there’s an entire, massive colony of blue macaws in the Amazon! Where no one ever looked, apparently (yeah, Blue Sky’s recycling some brilliant notes from Epic, it seems). So they’re NOT the only blue macaws around anymore! RIO 1 UNDONE. I mean, that’s the entire reason for why Rio 1 exists. If anyone during that movie had gone to the two birds’ caretakers and said “hey, did you checked out this one spot of the Amazon, where the one nut these birds like to eat so much is easily found”, none of what happened there would’ve mattered. Blu would’ve gone back to the US and be happy on his own I guess, and Jewel would’ve had plenty of born-and-raised suitors to pick from.
So the birds migrate there in the wake of the news, and… they bring the other birds, for some reason. That toucan, and the fat red bird with his yellow canary-like friend come along for the most nothing of motives. They’re looking for new talent for the carnaval! But that subplot only makes for like, 5% of the movie at best. But they gotta be there, because they’re birds and this is a bird-related movie! But in the Amazon they meet Jewel’s dad, and a guy-bird who’s seemingly into her, and that’s pretty much it.
Regarding subplots, we’ve got a couple of noteworthy ones. The caretakers, having discovered the blue macaws’ colony, are trying to protect it from a mafia man who’ll cut everything down for his unexplained reasons. Nigel, the evil cockatoo from the original Rio’s back for revenge against Blu. Having lost his capacity to fly after the first movie, he wants to straight-up kill Blu for it. That’s a neat role-reversal right there. A bird who couldn’t fly before’s the object of revenge to a bird who can’t fly anymore. Sadly, his role here’s very, very minimized. He goes to the Amazon aided by his two, um… friends? A bright pink frog and a mute, eager-to-please anteater, and together they Blu for a while… until he gets bored of it because he then partakes on the other bird’s carnaval auditions. They absolutely go nowhere here. None of these subplots go anywhere, and what’s worse, they’re terribly disconnected from the main story, from Blu and Jewel and this newfound colony. They don’t matter until they HAVE TO. Like, oh shit. We forgot they were planning to cut down these trees! And oh shit Nigel was here too, so we better make him part of this struggle somehow.
This just makes the movie feel bloated. The main story already goes at a snail’s pace, and the side ones are few and far between. And the plot as a whole, as I mentioned, is just “they go here, they find these other birds, they’re happy”. You could literally tell this story in half an hour and be just fine — especially if you trim down the movie’s endless sing-and-dance scenes. They either literally add nothing more than that “oh it’s fun and exotic, we just wanna dance” vibe the brazilian music gives, but it of course can’t move anything forward because they’re in another language; or they’re either tiresomely obvious, practically parroting things we’ve already known from the characters by that point.
It’s needless. It’s needlessly bad. It’s badly needless. The original story didn’t need this — at least, not like this. Rio 1 wasn’t a masterpiece of any kind, but it was pleasant and good enough for what it was. But you know what other movie was just that, too? Ice Age.
Yes, the glacial firestarter for Blue Sky. It had a neat character design and a cute story of friendship and commitment, with a side dish of Scrat’s antics. But that was SO GOOD that they needed THREE MORE SEQUELS to expand the story in weird, weird ways. No longer it could be about the Ice Age, now they’d be spanning continental drifts and weather changes that would usually take millenia in what it seems, just a few years or so. But it’s a cartoon, you can allow it to be this silly, right? Well… sure. But you still gotta have something to tell, and everything that gets told ENDS somewhere. Ice Age 2, 3, and 4 didn’t need to exist, because the original story ENDED. But now it’s all about like… getting this character hooked, or them stepping in some place weird, or meeting this crew of assholes. There’s no story there. Just situations — and these characters aren’t strong enough to make them work out. The only one sort-of capable’s Scrat, and he only works in small doses! Like a Tom & Jerry, or something.
And the same thing’s happening with Rio. None of these character’s strong enough to make low-tier story work by themselves. You can’t just make them “meet new guys”, “go some place weird” and make a whole movie out of that. These characters had a reason to be that was very sharply defined in the first movie, and these sequels just disregard that in order to exist. I can feasibly see Rio 3, 4, 5, and so on happening and them being just as vapid as 2 or any of the Ice Age sequels. This is a shitty thing Blue Sky has to stop — especially if their next movie’s Peanuts. Those are some strong characters there. You COULD do LOTS with them. You could have great sequels made out of them — but not like this. Not something like, the gang goes to London or meet a new kid who’s into iPhones and being hipster and whatnot. That’s basically what Rio 2 is. The birds go to the Amazon and meet this new bird. That’s it.
I mentioned it wasn’t boring tho. I mean it keeps a decent enough pace to keep you awake, but you’re gonna groan the whole thing through. Another song. Another lame joke. Another plot thread that doesn’t matter. Another thing that makes the original movie, for as good as it was, irrelevant. I didn’t hate it as much as 300: Rise of an Empire. It’s certainly a better movie, sure. But it’s worse for what it represents. Contempt for mediocrity. I know we’re not getting 300: ________ of an Empire. But Rio 3, 4, and so on? Yeah that’s a thing. Next time they’ll go back to the US and befriend a bald eagle or something. You’ll see.
That’s it for now! Best of luck!