Year 7, Day 277 - 10/4/15 - Movie #2,169
BEFORE: I've had a good run in the last two weeks, chipping away at the films of 2014, also a few from 2013 and 2012. That's largely because my watchlist now largely consists of films from the last couple of years, it's a great sign that I'm finally catching up. I still have some films from previous decades on the list, some of which I use as linking material, like I did with "Unforgettable" and "Masked and Anonymous". But for the theme months of October and February, it's (mostly) back to older horror films and romance films.
I'm going to finish this week out with three more films from 2014, and then I'll take a week's break for New York Comic Con. When I come back next Monday I'll start the horror chain, with films ranging from 1973 to 2014, only not in that order. I tried to do the best ordering of horror films I could, given a particular set of 19 films, but there are bound to be some gaps, and I'll just have to deal with that.
For tonight's linking, "Kermit's Swamp Years" was a bit of a dead end, but since several Muppet performers were in "Muppets Most Wanted" with Jemaine Clement, I'm going to follow that thread, as he's the voice of Nigel the evil cockatoo in the "Rio" franchise. (God, there were so many stars making cameos in "Muppets Most Wanted" I could have gone in any of a dozen directions - but there's not much point in second guessing it now, with just a few days left in regular season play.)
THE PLOT: Blu, Jewel and their three kids are hurtled from Rio de Janeiro to the wilds of the Amazon. As Blu tries to fit in, he goes beak-to-beak with the vengeful Nigel and meets his father-in-law.
FOLLOW-UP TO: "Rio" (Movie #1,293)
AFTER: This is a continuation of the "fish out of water" story seen in the first "Rio" film, but for me placing it after "Kermit's Swamp Years" has additional meaning. From a swamp to the Amazon jungle, get it? But also, I've lucked out because they focus on some of the same issues - what constitutes a wild animal and what constitutes a pet? Is it right to take frogs or birds or snakes out of the wild and make them live in a persons' house? The first "Rio" film took on exotic bird smugglers, but also sort of gave the impression that all Brazilian people want to do is dance at Carnival.
It seems like every animated film these days needs to champion a cause, even "Kermit's Swamp Years" took a stand against killing frogs in biology class, and tonight of course it's the deforestation of the Brazilian rainforest. Which seems like an easy cause to champion, if you ask me - I mean, of COURSE we should be working to save the rainforest. But haven't we been hearing about this for a couple of decades now? Plus, exactly what action would you like me to take to save it? I can't influence the Brazilian government from where I am, and I doubt that a lot of kids who see this movie would be able to do anything constructive either. OK, great, we've raised awareness of a thing that most people were already aware of - by the time the kids who see this movie become adults and are able to donate money or take political action, I figure either the problem will be solved, or it will be too late to do anything.
A quick bit of research tells me that Amazon deforestation is actually down significantly since 2004, and that the more the rainforest gets logged, the less precipitation reaches crops, so there's really no more economic advantage to converting rainforest to fields. It's like what the paper industry in the U.S. went through a few years ago, after they figured out it was more economical to replace trees than to just cut them down, they started to do the right thing and renew their own resource. I'd imagine the farmers in Brazil have started to see the light, and Wikipedia confirms that the amount of conserved land in Brazil tripled between 2002 and 2006. Should we remain on guard in the name of future conservation? Of course, but there's less of a reason to stick an environmental message into an animated film.
As an animated film, it just feels like this one had too many characters. How are kids supposed to keep track of them all? Did Blu and Jewel really need to have three kids, wouldn't two have been enough? There really wasn't time to develop them all with different personalities, so why did they all need to be there? Then we've got the toucan, the canary, the bulldog - they don't bring much to the table, the bulldog was even absent from most of the film because they didn't have anything for him to do.
The storyline with Blu trying to fit in with the tribe of blue macaws was fine, but why did their enemies have to be the scarlet macaws? Doesn't this teach kids to think along color lines, suggesting that people should only associate with others of the same race? Why couldn't all the birds share the grove from the start, wouldn't that send a better message out to the kids?
Another NITPICK POINT - why did the birds need to cross Brazil 17 times, just to find the Amazon? Isn't the Amazon River the largest in the world, isn't the Amazon basin just plain huge? Seems to me they should have been able to find the Amazon a lot quicker. OK, so they were looking for one specific point in the Amazon, I get that. But one bird had a phone with GPS, and the other was a bird using typical bird-flying techniques - am I to understand that neither system worked well? I understand that Rio de Janeiro may be 2,000 miles away from the Amazon, but it's a straight shot, isn't it?
Also starring the voices of Jesse Eisenberg (last seen in "Now You See Me"), Anne Hathaway (last seen in "Interstellar"), Andy Garcia (last seen in "Let's Be Cops"), George Lopez (last heard in "The Smurfs"), Jamie Foxx (last seen in "Horrible Bosses 2"), Will.I.am (last heard in "Rio"), Tracy Morgan (ditto), Rita Moreno (last seen in "Slums of Beverly Hills"), Kristin Chenoweth (last seen in "Bewitched"), Bruno Mars (last seen in "Honeymoon in Vegas"), Miguel Ferrer (last seen in "Another Stakeout"), Leslie Mann (last seen in "Big Daddy"), Sergio Mendes (last heard in "Rio"), Kate MiCucci, Janelle Monae, Rodrigo Santoro (last seen in "Love Actually"), Rachel Crow.
RATING: 5 out of 10 chainsaws