RIO 2 (G)
102 minutes/Opens on Thursday/2.5 stars
The story: Blue macaws Blu (Jesse Eisenberg) and Jewel (Anne Hathaway) lead a peaceful life with their three kids in Rio de Janeiro, but Jewel dreams of living in the wild. When their owners Tulio (Rodrigo Santoro) and Linda (Leslie Mann) discover a hidden tribe of blue macaws in the middle of the Amazon, the birds fly out to see what life is like there, much to the chagrin of the overly domesticated Blu.
Visually, this movie certainly matches the standards of its predecessor, boasting images that are just as bright and stunningly colourful. The scenes in the Amazon are especially pretty to look at, when the rainbow-hued birds fly through the lush earthy jungle.
But the sequel lacks the heart and warmth of the earlier work, where rare Brazilian blue macaw Blu, voiced to geeky perfection by Eisenberg, was utterly believable as the insecure bird who eventually learns how to be more self-confident.
Here, he has a whole set of new problems to worry about, being a coddled pet bird who is thrown into the wild rainforest. But his characterisation is so thinly drawn this time around that he just appears bratty and tiresome throughout.
His partner Jewel fares even worse: Her sprightliness, so pronounced in the first film, completely disappears here, making her so bland that it would hardly have mattered if any other actress were to take over Anne Hathaway's voicing duties.
Any semblance of an eco-friendly message also gets lost in the messy, overstuffed script here. In between Blu dealing with his new surroundings and Jewel being seduced by her sexy childhood friend Roberto, the subplot of the birds' owners Tulio and Linda trying to stop loggers from running down a part of the Amazon comes across as perfunctory.
While the story moves along quickly enough with slapstick gags for the younger kids to chortle at, most other viewers may crack a thin smile only every now and then.
The only two segments that are truly fun to watch are the musical numbers featuring the villainous duo made up of cockatoo Nigel and his poison dart frog sidekick, Gabi.
They are evil with a penchant for major drama. As Gabi (Kristin Chenoweth) belts out the song Poisonous Love to mark her forbidden love for Nigel (forbidden because she will kill him if her venom touches him), she sprawls and splays herself all over the place in such hilariously dramatic fashion, it is as if she were the lead in a soap opera.
And when Nigel (a perfect Jemaine Clement) sings his own take of Gloria Gaynor's I Will Survive, complete with deliciously wicked lyrics ("I've been training again and eating my fibre/You've been staying alive well, I've been staying alive-er/watch where you sit, when I spit my saliva like boom"), he milks it for all its worth.
Just like the penguins in the Madagascar films and the minions in the Despicable Me franchise, the sidekicks steal the show here.