fact friday rio: a movie review

You knew this was coming.

Especially after that precious video from last week, how could I resist?

I must give you an analysis of the animated film Rio, released in April and based on the wildlife trade in Rio de Janeiro (in case you thought it was based on body paint and sailboats from this unforgettable Rio instead).

Let’s start with the fun parts, then move into the deeper stuff.

Fun Part #1: The Music

The movie celebrates the rich music found in its namesake city. A collaboration between well-known Brazilian and American musicians made it happen. The samba and hip-hop-influenced beats are meant to align with our heartbeats, and you can feel it!

This one will get stuck in your head:


For the Portuguese version, click here.

With music comes dance. Everyone, even awkward main character Blu and his awkward white girl Minnesotan companion (complete with glasses, anxiety and love for books) figure out how to dance. (Secretly, that’s what I’m hoping happens to me in Rio, too.)

Rio the movie, Linda and Blu
Linda and Blu in Minnesota


Fun Part #2: The Scenery

Who wouldn’t want to be a rare Amazonian bird after seeing images of this place?

Rio forest

So… the Not So Great Stuff.

Not So Great Part #1: Gender Representation

Just on the cover, we have 8 characters, and seven are male.

Rio movie poster

Do females really make up only 1/7 of the population? (No.)

So, what’s with the lack of representation? It’s actually a trend dubbed the Smurfette Principle. (I warned you this would get serious.)


Jewel and Linda are the only main female characters. While they both are fiercely independent at first (Linda owns a bookstore and refuses to travel to Rio; Jewel wants to fly and exclaims that she never wants to be cooped up in a cage), they both become the damsels in distress. Linda loses Blu and spends the rest of the movie frantically searching for him. Jewel breaks her wing while she and Blu are trapped in an airplane. She falls and in the climactic end (spoiler warning!), Blu sweeps down to save her. They have a passionate kiss, then he flies her to safety.

The scene is endearing in part because Blu has spent the entire movie believing he can’t fly. The kiss gives him the final push to learn. Perhaps this scene is a reversal of the non-emotional male stereotype, but Jewel fulfills the age-old tale of a female character losing her independence and being saved by her male counterpart.

In the end, Linda hooks up with bird scientist Tulio and moves to Rio to stay with him and Blu.

(OK, so I would choose Rio over Minnesota myself, especially if I were living with a couple of cute birds and a bird scientist. But that doesn’t make up for the other stuff.)

Not So Great Part #2: Class Representation

Overall, the “bad guys” (and yes, they’re all guys) live in the favelas. The “good guys” (+ one girl) don’t. The one exception is a young boy who participates in the wildlife trade out of necessity and pressure from the bad guys. He has doubts all along about the morality of his work. In the end (spoiler warning), he is granted a happily-ever-after fate with lovebirds Linda and Tulio.

What seems to be missing from the favela representation is the rich cultural history of the favela communities. Samba schools, the groups that perform during world-renown Carnival, originated in favelas. Even though the movie takes place during Carnival, the favelas’ connection to the celebration is lost.

Linda at Carnival (being awkward)


The one serious topic the movie deals with well is the horrors of the Brazilian wildlife trade.

The part of the ending I can get behind is that a nearly-extinct species is given the chance to thrive again. And two birds fall in love. (You can’t help but feel a little warm and fuzzy at that!)

Jewel and Blu

Have you seen Rio? What’s your take?


4 responses to “fact friday rio: a movie review”

  1. I have never heard of this movie, although I still enjoyed the review. Great video on the Smurfette Principle…in fact I watched 5 or 6 of these women-as-tropes videos on Feminist Frequency.

    p.s. Hollywood needs to also stop equating women who read books (with or without glasses) as awkward and in need of fixing/loosening up!

    • yes, my point exactly Erica! It’s one thing to have a familiar, comforting character (shy bookworm with glasses), it’s another to promote a stereotype (all bookworms must be shy and wear glasses).

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