Reel Critics: 'Rio' takes you on a fun, wild adventure

The makers of the "Ice Age" films take their animation skills to the tropics in the rollicking movie "Rio." The story centers on two rare birds living thousands of miles apart. But they are destined to meet in a series of wild adventures that will entertain young and old alike.

A young lady in Minnesota owns a rare blue macaw. She is persuaded by a scientist to bring him to Brazil to mate with a female of the species. Their arrival in Rio de Janeiro coincides with the riotous activities of Carnival. Everything vibrates with explosions of bright colors at every turn.

Amid the festivities, the valuable birds are kidnapped by evil animal traders. The roller-coaster chase to rescue them is the heart of the story. Jesse Eisenberg and Anne Hathaway voice the birds, who grow closer as their perilous journey unfolds. Several gregarious city birds form a cadre of amusing sidekicks. They dance their way across the screen in opulent Busby Berkeley style.

Wholesome life lessons are on display as the birds develop loyalty, courage and perseverance to overcome their troubles. It's a great example of G-rated fun for the whole family.


Strong cast highlights Civil War drama 'The Conspirator'

Robert Redford's thoughtful, elegant "The Conspirator" once again shows the director's talent for understatement in this thought-provoking Civil War drama.

The unthinkable has happened — President Lincoln has been shot. As the nation reels, pressure is brought to bear on finding those responsible and bringing them to swift justice. One of the accused is Mary Surratt, who ran a boarding house where John Wilkes Booth met with his fellow plotters.

In this little-known sidebar to a turbulent chapter of our nation's history, the issue that develops is — should there be a different form of justice during wartime? When Constitutional rights are tossed out the window, does that not subvert the rights of all and set a dangerous precedent for future generations?

The cast is strong, with Robin Wright and James McAvoy quietly compelling as Mary Surratt and defense attorney Frederick Aiken. Aiken is at first convinced of Surratt's guilt, but gradually it dawns on him there are bigger issues at stake.

There are obvious parallels in "The Conspirator" with the aftermath of 9/11. What I like most about this film is that Redford does not resort to courtroom fireworks to decide the issues for us, but lets us draw our own conclusions.

JOHN DEPKO is a retired senior investigator for the Orange County public defender's office. He lives in Costa Mesa and works as a licensed private investigator.

SUSANNE PEREZ lives in Costa Mesa .

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