Feathery fun for the family

FILM REVIEWS
RIO
Cert: U

BEARING in mind the panoply of animals to have starred in digitally animated films, from kung fu pandas to mobster sharks, it’s surprising it’s taken until now to have a movie all about a parrot. The one we now have is no classic of the genre, but that won’t bother it’s intended audience who will derive a lot of half-term fun from it.

Blu (voiced by The Social Network’s Jesse Eisenberg), the parrot in question, is a rare macaw who’s kept as a pet in Minnesota, having been snatched from his Brazilian habitat as a baby before he could learn to fly. He lives a mellow life with his beloved bookshop owner Linda, until a Brazilian ornithologist arrives to say that Blu is the last male of his kind. A female macaw has been found, and Blu is needed in Brazil to mate with her. Off goes nerdy, flightless Blu to meet sassy, free-spirited Jewel (Anne Hathaway on voice duties) and save the species.

The adventure kicks in when Blu and Jewell get kidnapped by the bird snatchers who originally stole Blu from his habitat. The two go on the run chained together at the ankle, with only Jewel able to fly.

Rio is a little short on killer jokes, but it makes up for this with tremendous warmth and some dazzlingly crisp animation, which – a rare thing – makes the most of being in 3D. That technical jiggery combines with an effervescent samba soundtrack by Sergio Mendes, never more so than in the opening sequence where a kaleidoscopic array of jungle birds dance to the rainforest sunrise.

Helping Blu and Jewel out as are Jamie Foxx and Black Eyed Peas’ Will.i.am as a streetwise birdy duo; Flight of the Concords’ Jermaine Clement, as villainous cockatoo Nigel, is an absolute hoot.

Timothy Barber

ARMADILLO
Cert: 18

IT will be nigh-on impossible to look at any action sequence in a war film quite the same way after you’ve seen Armadillo, a documentary which brings us closer to the tumult of battle, and to the horrifying hopelessness of the Afghan campaign, than any previous film. It’s utterly winding.

One has to admire the director, Janus Metz, and his cameraman Lars Skree, who spent six months last year with a platoon of young Danish squaddies on their first tour in Helmand Province. “Armadillo” is the name of the base they occupy. It’s a sandbagged outpost in the heart of Taliban country, surrounded by arid farmland where life is hard enough for the locals without being caught in the crossfire. The Taliban come and go like ghosts, ambushing patrols, planting IEDs and threatening revenge on the farmers should they speak to the troops.

Scared, frustrated and bored, the soldiers spend their free time watching porn and growing ever more inventive facial hair. When they – and we – are caught in a frenzied firefight with Taliban fighters mere feet away, bullets pop and whizz as confusion reigns. Moments later, two Danes are seriously wounded, several Taliban dead in a ditch and a gruesome incident recorded which cuts to the core of wartime moral quandaries like a bayonet in the guts.

Astonishingly cinematic in its look, this shocking, complex film is essential.

TB