Some friends play at friendship
but a true friend sticks closer than one’s nearest kin.
In this delightful animated film Blu (voice of Jesse Eisenberg) is a baby Macaw captured by exotic animal
poachers while still a fledgling and transported to America. When his box falls off the truck, he eventu
ally winds up in the care of a girl living in the small town of Moose Lake, Minnesota. Linda (voice of Leslie Mann) and Blue become inseparable companions as they grow up, Linda eventually opening up a bookstore. Blue never learns to fly because of the trauma of falling when he was a baby and also because he has lived his life in a cage where his every need is provided for by his human friend.
Then comes the day when Brazilian ornithologist, Tulio (voice of Rodrigo Santoro) spots Blu and informs her that there is a female Macaw that would enable the continuation of the rare species if they can be brought together. Linda is not keen on traveling to Rio de Janeiro, but finally agrees. There the very independent counterpart to Blu awaits him. Jewel (voice of Anne Hathaway) is very unimpressed by Blu’s inability to fly. Thus their romance follows the usual arc of beginning with dislike and moving on to disdain, a warming up of their relationship, and at last arriving at mutual respect and love, all this happening amidst a wild series of misadventures when they are kidnapped by poachers and seek to escape.
The colors and sounds of Rio at Carnivale time are wondrously captured by the animators, many of the scenes, such as the parades and the dances in a huge stadium being very spectacular. The animators also show us the glories of the city from the air when our little hero is aloft on a hang glider. Even Christ makes his appearance as they fly by the immense statue atop the mountain looking benevolently over the city.
The theme of friendship pervades the film, beginning with that between Linda and Blue, and branching out to include a motley crew of city birds, a bulldog, and a street urchin named Fernando (Jake T. Austin. The latter is a member of the gang of poachers but, giving in to his conscience when he realizes the harm the gang members cause, and so offers help to Linda and Tulio in search if Blu and Jewel. The villains are led by a Cockle too named Nigel (Jemaine Clements) who uses the city’s monkeys to attempt to recapture the two Blue Macaws when they escape.
Some have seen, by the inclusion of the orphaned street kid Fernando a reference to the wonderful Brazilian film Central Station, but the film that was brought to my mind when Blu and Jewel are chained together was the much older The Defiant Ones. In that film Tony Curtiss and Sidney Poitier portrayed two chained-together convicts trying to escape from a Southern chain gang. The racist white and the African American hate each other, but if they are to elude those hunting them down, they must learn to work together. In Rio Jewel thinks Blu is a total loser because he cannot fly, but they too must cooperate with each other if they are to make good on their escape. Lots of humor, spectacular sites, and Brazilian music make this a delightful family film.
1. How are the themes of friendship and freedom related in the film? Is the friendship between Blu and Linda on an equal basis? What do you think of the way this is resolved at the end of the film?
2. How does Jewel see flying as freedom in the following conversation?
Jewel: “Birds! Birds need flying. Flying is… err… freedom, and, and not having to rely on anyone. Don’t you want that?” Blu: “Hmm, I don’t know. Sounds a little lonely.” What does she have to learn that Blu’s response indicates he understands?