(CNN) -- A domesticated Minnesota macaw is returned to Brazil to propagate his species in this colorful animated family feature.
Blu, voiced by "The Social Network's" Jesse Eisenberg, is perfectly content living alone with Linda (Leslie Mann), who is an endangered species herself: an independent bookseller.
The last thing he wants or needs is an all-expenses-paid trip to Rio de Janeiro, where bird doctor Tulio (Rodrigo Santoro) has the last female blue macaw in captivity. Jewel (Anne Hathaway) isn't too pleased either, especially when she finds out this North American nerd bird can't even fly, putting a significant crimp in the escape plan she's hatching.
I guess you would have to call this a pet project for writer-director Carlos Saldanha ("Ice Age"), who was born in Rio himself. The movie shies away from local color the way Carmen Miranda shied from a banana. The opening number is a Vegas-in-the-rainforest routine, a tropical cavalcade of all-singing, all-dancing parrots, hornbills and toucans, and save for a brief interlude in the frigid North, the samba beat rarely lets up for long.
Which is absolutely fine. After his self-imposed exile in three "Ice Ages," you can't blame Saldanha for embracing the tropical heat.
His Copa runneth over with soccer, fruit cocktails and carnival. Look closely, you'll see Linda even gets a touch of sunburn. That kind of attention to detail distinguishes the images even when the story itself feels less than inspired.
Saldanha doesn't ignore the city's grim poverty and horrendous crime rate, either. In classic Disney fashion, Blu and Jewel are snatched by bungling bird-smugglers, but there's also an orphaned street kid involved who might have stepped out of "City of God."
Eisenberg's geek with a beak is a typical movie klutz, a permanently flustered, blustering homebody who resembles Woody Allen with wings. Blu's fear of flying is the movie's most consistent running gag and, naturally, its guiding metaphor. Hathaway's feisty Jewel and Mann's determined Linda give the story a mildly feminist undercurrent.
Among a crowded menagerie of comical support, neither Jamie Foxx nor Will.i.am get anything interesting to do, but Tracy Morgan is fun as a slobbery bulldog and Jemaine Clement (from "Flight of the Conchords") contributes his own song as the villainous cockatoo, Nigel. (Sample lyric: "Like an abandoned school, I've got no principles.")
It's bizarre that a movie boasting no less than four songs by Tropicalia legend Sergio Mendes and half a dozen more by Bahia percussionist Carlinhos Brown should lean over backward to name-check Alabama's own Lionel Richie -- presumably someone at Twentieth Century Fox thought that was a great idea. But why complain when there is so much good samba to savor?
Presented in 3-D, "Rio" makes the most of the spectacular city backdrop, especially in the swooping aerial sequences and a climactic chase among the carnival floats. The storytelling is too formulaic to put this up among the top tier, but families will come out swinging their hips and shaking their tail-feathers.