Monday, May 2, 2011

Two Thumbs Up For "Rio"

I enjoy animated movies like Shrek, Ice Age, Cars, Finding Nemo, Up, and Madagascar, so it is no surprise that I enjoyed the latest movie Rio whose main characters were parrots. I think the only part of the movie that made me want to jump out of my seat screaming "Nooooooo!" was the scene where Blu was given chocolate chip cookies and hot chocolate with marshmallows. It was at that part that I wished I had a bullhorn so I could shout out "Please do not feed your parrot any chocolate - it will make them sick!" to the entire audience in the theatre, but...I didn't want to embarrass my son.

And the only other noticeable flaw in the movie was that the parrots only had three claws rather than the four that they have in real life. I reminded myself that this was a family movie meant to entertain, so I didn't expect the animators to get every detail correct. (A friend recently pointed out that most animated characters are missing a digit.)

What I didn't expect was to watch a movie that had a good message to deliver in an entertaining way. This could have been a purely funny, zany story like Shrek, an animated romantic comedy. This too had the potential to be an animated romantic comedy between two macaws, but found Rio to be so much more. There was painstaking realism within this fictional story, not to mention the moral that hit home with me, that it left me with an ache in my heart at times. The movie began with poachers interrupting the happy, carefree lives of the parrots. Blu, the hatchling macaw was trapped and shipped to the United States. The poaching scene is a situation that many are still battling in foreign lands so I appreciate the taste of reality fed to family audiences.

Rio also portrayed a loving, caring bond between human and bird based on trust. Many birds are loved and cared for - not ignored and neglected. Unfortunately, we tend to focus on the wretched stories of hoarders, sub-standard bird mills, etc, that we forget that many birds are loved, well fed, and happy. Then we are shown the flip side of the coin that many do not know about…those who regard birds as a commodity rather than distinct living beings. We are shown a gang of unscrupulous thugs who market stolen birds to line their pockets with money. Rio is more than a charming love story between two endangered macaws, it exemplifies how we should and should not treat living beings.

One can admonish this movie and state that many who see it will run out to purchase macaws thus increasing the homeless bird population years from now. The first hitch in this scenario is that macaws are not cheap; therefore, many will not be able to afford to run out and buy one, especially one that is on the endangered list. Second, breeders cannot produce birds on demand. If they could, many birds would not be on the endangered list if it were that easy to raise numbers. You can mass produce DVD players and iPods in short time. Nature, however, is not flexible enough to accommodate our whims with the same efficiency.

If one wants to skip my analysis of Rio, I will simply say that I enjoyed the time spent with my family watching what we entertaining animated movie. My family and I give Rio two thumbs up.