"Rio 2" is a perfect example of franchise maintenance in place of storytelling, and the nicest thing I can say about it is that my kids found it to be an agreeable way to spend part of an afternoon.
I know I saw the first "Rio." My review of it was published in the days before we started putting letter grades on films in our reviews, but I would have given it a B or a B-. I liked the way they used Rio as a setting, I thought the performances were spirited and fun, and I really liked the soundtrack that was put together by Sergio Mendes. The sequel, which is practically the definition of "more of the same," is less successful in the way it uses the rain forest as a setting, and it features performances that feel far more phoned in while still featuring a non-stop dynamic soundtrack put together by Sergio Mendes. There is nothing about the film that feels particularly compelling, and the story is really just an excuse to put a new obstacle between Blu (Jesse Eisenberg) and Jewel (Anne Hathaway) while bad guy Nigel (Jemaine Clement) once again skulks about, all on the way to a happy ending you'll see coming a mile away.
A movie like this is made and scheduled because it is a property that Fox wants to keep active, not out of any particular need in storytelling. Carlos Saldanha is a reliable co-ordinator for this kind of bright, colorful, kid-friendly property. The palette of the movie is once again eye-popping and vivid, and it's apparent that the Blue Sky team has gotten to a place where they are capable of enormous technical sophistication. Looking at the actual craft of the animation, they're very impressive. There's some very strong character performance work that is made more memorable because of the mannerisms of real birds that they use. But all of it is in service to a disappointingly familiar overall piece of work.