Just because a South American frog has toxic venom that can cause instant death does not mean she cannot be adorably lovesick. Broadway belter Kristin Chenoweth (“Wicked,” “Glee”) steals the show right under the Brazil nut-cracking beaks of our old friends the macaws Blu (Jesse Eisenberg) and Jewel (Anne Hathaway) as Gabi, a tiny little tree frog whose sweet nature is challenged by (1) the fact that she is poisonous and (2) the subject of her utter but perhaps misplaced devotion is the cockatoo villain of the original “Rio,” Nigel (Jermaine Clement). Although at times over-plotted and slow to get going, this sequel is bright and entertaining, with musical numbers that rock the rainforest.
Blu, Jewel, and their three macaw chicks are living happily in the bird sanctuary set up for them by their human friends Linda (Leslie Mann) and Tulio (Rodrigo Santoro). Blu, raised in Linda’s home, enjoys making pancakes for breakfast but Jewel, raised in the wild, wants to show their children the beauty of the world she came from. Think “Green Acres,” with Blu as Eva Gabor. When Tulio and Linda find evidence that there are macaws living in the rainforest, Jewel persuades Blu that they should go for a visit. Blu loads up his fanny pack with bug spray, water purifier, bandaids and GPS and they go off to the Amazon, taking along some of their feathered friends.
This time, the problem is not smugglers but three separate threats that are far more dire. Illegal loggers are destroying the rainforest. Nigel, with Gabi’s help, wants revenge following his injuries in the climax of the last film, which left him unable to fly and working as a Shakespearean actor. But he is determined to get revenge and Gabi will do anything to help him.. And when Jewel finds that the newly discovered macaws are her father (Andy Garcia) and the community she thought had been destroyed, she wants to turn the brief visit into a permanent stay. Blu misses the comforts of home and feels a lot of competition from Jewel’s old friend Roberto (Bruno Mars), who has all of the confidence and ease at fitting in that Blu envies. There’s also a turf war between the red and blue macaws as the food sources shrink.
It takes a while to get going and once it does too much seems to happen at once. But it is bright and colorful and sweet and funny. And that little frog is a hoot and a half.
Parents should know that this film has some potty humor, comic, cartoon-style violence and mild peril, a bad guy swallowed by a snake, a spider, a poisonous frog, a skeleton, and environmental issues.
Family discussion: What can we do to protect the plants and animals of the rainforest? What does Gabi like about Nigel? Why do Blu and Jewel each think the other is “weird” about humans? Why is Eduardo tough on Blu?
If you like this, try: “Rio” and “Despicable Me”