A lot of passion and personal feeling clearly went into ''Rio,'' the 3-D animated adventure from director Carlos Saldanha, who devised this story as a love letter to his Brazilian hometown.
It's strikingly gorgeous, bursting with big images and vibrant colors. And the use of 3-D, which so often feels so needless and like such an afterthought, is surprisingly effective in the hands of Saldanha (director or co-director of the ''Ice Age'' movies) and his team. Stuff doesn't come flinging at you in cheeky, knowing fashion, but in the flying sequences especially the chase scenes, the 3-D provides an extra thrill. Blu, a cerulean macaw who's the film's reluctant hero, hang-glides around the mountaintop Christ the Redeemer statue, and the depth of field that results is sort of awesome.
The whole film has a tremendous energy about it, not just in the way it moves but in the snappy banter and screwball antics between Jesse Eisenberg, who voices Blu, and Anne Hathaway, who voices the free-spirited bird Jewel. Eisenberg works his patented halting, neurotic delivery to ideal comic effect, while Hathaway is confident, bold and impatient as the female of the species who is his destiny. So much is so appealing for so long that you can almost forgive the fact that there's not much story here. It's essentially one long chase, with the usual romantic-comedy friction that will, of course, turn into love.
* ‘‘Rio ’’ is an animated comedy featuring the voices of Jesse Eisenberg and Anne Hathaway with George Lopez, Jamie Foxx, will.i.am and Tracy Morgan. It is directed by Carlos Saldanha. Rated G, its running time is 1:36. It opens Friday at Kaahumanu 6, Kukui Mall 4 and Front Street Theaters.
Blu, as a baby, was abducted by smugglers who raided his jungle home to sell him and other beautiful birds illegally in the United States. He ended up getting lost en route and falling into the loving hands of a nerdy, small-town Minnesota girl named Linda. Over the years, the two forged an amusingly inappropriate bond, and now are enjoying a comfy, co-dependent existence. Linda (voiced by Leslie Mann) has domesticated Blu to such an extent that he makes his own breakfast and enjoys hot cocoa with marshmallows - but he never learned to do what most birds can do, which is fly.
One day, a scientist named Tulio (Rodrigo Santoro) arrives to inform Linda that Blu is the only male left of his species. They must travel at once to Rio de Janeiro to allow Blu to mate with the last female of the species, Jewel. Anxious about leaving their familiar surroundings, they nonetheless make the trip.
But this first date, um, doesn't go quite as everyone hoped. Not only do Blu and Jewel not get it on, but they hate one another - and Jewel is too busy anyway planning her escape. Then they're captured by another set of smugglers, with help from a hideous, diabolical cockatoo named Nigel, hilariously voiced by Jemaine Clement of ''Flight of the Conchords.''
From here, they must figure out how to break free so Blu can get back to Linda and Jewel can enjoy independence. The fact that they're chained to one another - and Blu can't fly, if you'll recall - sets up plenty of slapstick and elaborate mad dashes across slums, beaches, forests and finally the spectacle of Carnival.
Nothing deep or heavy here - just a good time and a pleasurable escape.