By Sibel Tinar, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – A city of contradictions, extremes, and stunning beauty, Rio de Janeiro is unrivaled as to its potential as filmmaker haven. The majority of films set in Rio, such as the recent Tropa de Elite 2 and 5x Favela take on heavy subject matters and focus on complicated and controversial social issues. Rio, the family-friendly, 3D animation that hit the screens around the world last week, on the other hand, tells a lighthearted, uplifting story, while recreating the city on the screen with incredible precision.
Rio tells the story of Blu, a rare, blue macaw from small-town Minnesota, who discovers that a female blue macaw called Jewel has been living in Rio de Janeiro. Blu and Jewel are as different as they can be, and the film keeps its focus on the odd coupling of the domesticated cage bird from small-town USA who cannot even fly, and the free-spirited, fearless, Carioca Jewel.
Story and characters aside, Rio is a visual and musical love poem to the Cidade Maravilhosa. It explores almost every landmark of the city, making the most of the capabilities of computer generated imagery and 3D technologies. The natural beauty mixed with the well-known cultural symbols of the city create such a stunning spectacle on the screen that it delights even the long-time, jaded residents of the city.
The director Carlos Saldanha, a Carioca living in the U.S., has expressed that his objective was to show the Brazilian culture and lifestyle from the eyes of an American, and he passes with flying colors. Considering that the film is a kid-friendly, feel-good movie, the positive depiction of the city is not only expected, but also welcome for anyone who is familiar with Rio. Excluding the evil characters, and the tourist-robbing monkeys, Rio succeeds in creating paradise on screen, while staying true to the reality of the city.
The film has already become a box office hit worldwide, having grossed over US$173 million within its first week. It has ranked as the number one movie in the U.S., and made over US$39 million in the opening weekend; while in Brazil it has grossed US$18 million within the first week.
Along with fascinating visuals and the clever mix of Brazilian and American music that adds to the uplifting quality of the movie, the portrayal of the local people, though a bit stereotypical, is not only hilarious for those who are familiar with Cariocas, but also fascinating as to the attention to detail.
Rio also attempts and succeeds in tackling some light social commentary, via pitting the small-town American and Carioca cultures against each other. The relative monotony and isolation of suburban American life clashes with the laid-back and touchy-feely Carioca lifestyle, as living in Rio means constant contact with the most extreme realities.
An already classic scene, as it was partly used in trailers and teasers for months, shows the main characters’ journey from São Conrado’s hills to Cristo Redentor, the skies over Botafogo, Copacabana beach on what looks like a typical Sunday afternoon, and a nearby favela. In a single scene, accompanied by one of the most famous Brazilian tunes, Mas Que Nada, the film manages to grasp the essence of the city, visually affirming that Rio is indeed the purgatório da beleza e do caos (purgatory of beauty and chaos)…