In the commercial animation realm, there are movies that reach for something, or many things. Others are content merely to baby-sit.
The 2011 hit "Rio" was a baby sitter. And so is "Rio 2," a routine sequel following the perilous adventures of the rare blue macaws Blu (wow, clever character name), Jewel and their offspring as they leave urban Rio life for a chaotic trip to Amazon rain forest country. In the jungle the birds' sympathetic human protectors Linda and Tulio (now married) have discovered more endangered blue macaws. Instant family! Jewel senses an opportunity to reconnect to her roots, even before she learns her father (Andy Garcia, growling his way through the Robert De Niro "Meet the Parents" role) is alive and missing his daughter.
In the first "Rio" the humor, however meager, came from Minnesota-bred Blu's nervous immersion in the tropical Rio universe. The sequel throws the bird, again voiced by Jesse Eisenberg opposite Anne Hathaway's Jewel, outside his latest comfort zone. Armed with a GPS and a most unbirdly fanny pack, the anxious urbanite Blu faces an onslaught of trouble. There's Nigel, the vicious cockatoo (Jemaine Clement, doing what he can with weak faux-Shakespearean gags) and his henchfolk, a mute aardvark and a shrill, love-besotted pink frog voiced by Kristin Chenoweth.
The script, credited to Don Rhymer, Carlos Kotkin, Jenny Bicks and Yoni Brenner, overpacks its complications by roughly a steamer trunk's worth. Blu must prove his mettle to his father-in-law; fend off a potential romantic interference from Roberto (Bruno Mars, Mr. High Note), Jewel's dashing macaw friend from the old days; and help save the rain forest and its crucial Brazil nut tree growth from illegal loggers. The latter brings the story to an "Avatar"-inspired climax: innocent and valiant forest-dwellers versus marauding interlopers with heavy machinery.
The movie is heavy machinery of a different kind. Directed by Carlos Saldanha, "Rio 2" offers roughly the same approach to story and to story clutter as did the first movie. A little conflict, followed by domestic strife and reasons for Blu to panic, followed by something flying in your face (3-D, you know), followed by another ensemble samba number. Millions of kids and, I'm guessing, a few parents will like it well enough. Sergio Mendes returns to oversee the music, which is pretty tasty. The movie's an acceptable, if tiring, baby sitter. At one point Jewel chides her children for being addicted to iPods, which is ironic, given how many young people are destined to see or re-see or re-re-see "Rio 2" exactly that way once its theatrical exhibition duty has been fulfilled.
"Rio 2" - 2 stars
MPAA rating: G
Running time: 1:41