xXx: Return of Xander Cage
The last forty minutes of the movie do come together in a pretty diverting way.
When a tiny lovelorn frog bellowing a Broadway-style torch song hits one of the few high notes of "Rio 2"—an unnecessary animated sequel that presumably exists because the first "Rio" grossed a robust $485 million worldwide—you know something is off-key.
Not that the number doesn’t deserve to stand out considering the singer behind the amorous amphibian is Kristin Chenoweth, an Ethel Merman-class belter who is both riveting and ribbit-ing as a purple-and-pink croaker named Gabi. But her performance, inspired by an unrequited crush on vengeful cockatoo Nigel (once again voiced with pungent derision by Jemaine Clement, who gets his own showstopper with a rap-infused version of "I Will Survive") should not be the main takeaway in a story that is primarily about a family reunion of tropical parrots.
It’s a sign of creative desperation of sorts that this return trip to South America is so over-stuffed with subplots and extraneous new characters that it barely stops flapping its plot-propelling wings for a second. As a result, "Rio 2" ends up being not so much about the birds as mostly for the birds.
The 2011 original dared to touch upon the issue of rampant poverty in the frenzied Brazilian party city of Rio de Janeiro while following a pair of rare blue macaws who fall in love despite their differences. What distinguished that outing from other recent cartoon flights of fancy was the way the furry-and-feathered wisecrackers were grounded by intoxicating cultural flourishes, rump-shaking rhythms and real-world urban surroundings.