Sunday, 10 April 2011


RIO (20th Century Fox Films) Now Showing

Blu (voiced by Jesse Eisenberg) is a rare blue macaw, raised in Minnesota and more human than bird; he can't even fly. But when he's taken to his native Rio to aid in a breeding program with Jewel (incongruously voiced by Anne Hathaway; no Latina actresses available?), a captive macaw in the midst of planning her escape, a series of misadventures ensues involving bird smugglers, an evil cockatoo (a scene-stealing Jemaine Clement), a salivating bulldog and some evil monkeys.

Much like Brazil's annual festival Carnivale, which provides the backdrop to the climax of Rio, the latest film by the creative team behind Ice Age is all colour, sound and movement. That's not to say it isn't fun or entertaining – it is – but in the continually impressive world of animated features, Rio is more diversionary than enthralling.

Having said that, it's probably the best family film choice these Easter school holidays, capable of entertaining kids and adults alike with its breezy nature, humour and heart, albeit not in the league of Pixar (but then, who is?).

HOP (Universal Pictures) Now Showing

The Easter Bunny is a hereditary title, inherited not earned, and the Easter Bunny himself oversees a Wonka-like operation manned by fluffy yellow chicks (cheep labour!) beneath Easter Island (of course). That's what we learn early on in Hop, the latest animation-live action mix from Tim Hill, the director of Alvin and the Chipmunks.

We also learn that Russell Brand, alleged comedian and ladies' man (what's up with that?), is no less tolerable in animated form. He voices E.B., the son of the Easter Bunny who'd rather play drums than take on the family business and so leaves Easter Island for Hollywood, ingratiating himself into the life of Frank O'Hare (James Marsden), a Gen Y slacker who's in need of some direction. Frank can't shake the rabbit until E.B.'s scored his big break in the music world. Cue lazy Hassellhoff cameo.

Hop is squarely aimed at the 5 and under age group, an audience not yet able to discern between humour and loud noise, which is what I found Hop to be. Most of the jokes fall flat and Brand, no doubt cast to appeal to the (unfortunate) parents accompanying their kids, makes E.B. the most boorish bunny since Bugs. Hank Azaria as Carlos, the Easter Bunny's coup-planning 2IC, gets the best laughs while Marsden, a good sport here, deserves better. As do your kids: see something – anything – else these holidays.

MARS NEEDS MUMS (Walt Disney Studios Films) Opens April 14

When Milo's mum (Joan Cusack) is abducted by aliens – her parenting skills deemed ideal for implanting into the Martians' nanny-bots who raise their female children; the males are literally thrown on the rubbish dump – Milo (Seth Green), stowing away on the abductors' spaceship, makes it his mission to get his mother back.

He's aided in his quest by Gribble (Dan Fogler), a man who was once in Milo's position but with not so fortunate an outcome, and Ki (Elisabeth Harnois), a native of Mars whose knowledge of Earth has been gleamed from a 1960s TV show.

Mars Needs Mums is the latest motion-capture film by director Robert Zemeckis (The Polar Express, Beowulf) although this time he's in the producer's chair (Simon Wells directs). The technique, which sees live performances by actors captured by motion sensors and then layered with animation, achieves its most life-like imagery here with the humans (especially Fogler's Gribble) actually looking like humans and less like lobotmized beings.

The film itself, aimed at a tween and older audience (it gets dark in places), has some garbled messages about the ideal parenting paradigm (as well as posing an interesting scenario of a world where women rule) before ultimately deciding on the one mum-one dad system. This is a Disney film, after all.

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