Review: Rio

** (G)

Director: Carlos Saldanha.

Cast: (voices of) Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway, Leslie Mann, Rodrigo Santoro, George Lopez, Jemaine Clement.

THE best and, unfortunately, most obvious simile to describe this film is to liken it to a parrot - it's pretty to look at it, but when it talks it doesn't say very much.

Blu (voiced by The Social Network star Eisenberg) is a rare Macaw and the house pet of Linda (Mann), a Minnesotan shut-in whose only friend appears to be the well-trained but flightless bird.

Linda is approached by South American ornithologist Tulio (Santoro), who explains that Blu is one of the last of his kind, and that a female Macaw named Jewel (Hathaway) is waiting for them in Rio de Janiero so that they mave save the species.

Soon, Linda and Blu are accompanying Tulio to meet Jewel in Brazil, where they will have to battle bird smugglers, an evil cockatoo, thieving monkeys and the dazzle of Carnivale in order to find love.

On paper, Rio looks the goods and in its sharply rendered 3D animations it's at least a visual treat. The movie shamelessly skews to a G-rated audience and the bright colours and occasional musical numbers create a vibe that suits its demographic.

But beneath the shine and sparkle there is little of substance. Dastardly bird smugglers make for worthy villains, but Blu is not a terribly sympathetic hero and his quest to learn how to fly is boringly predictable.

Blu is not the only let-down character - very few of the players stand-out as interesting or even entertaining. Flight Of The Conchords' Jemaine Clement is an exception as the memorable bird baddie Nigel, a frightening cockatoo who gets to the sing the best song of the film by way of introduction. 30 Rock's Tracy Morgan, who voices slobbering bulldog Luiz, is the only other character that sparks laughs, but his appearance is all too brief.

Rio does get points for making its musical interludes fairly unobtrusive, but the humour is severely lacking. Some huge slapstick set pieces and rolling chase sequences fill in the voids between the largely flat dialogue but it's not quite enough.

Packed with bright colours, silly talking animals and lots of movement, the latest film from the makers of the Ice Age series is like a Carnivale float - visually dazzling on the outside, but there's not much of interest beneath the sparkles.

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