Movie Reviews

BIRDS of a feather flock but feathers are far more likely to fly in Rio (G), an animated film from Blue Sky Studios.

Domesticated macaw Blu (voiced by Jesse Eisenberg) is transported from snowy Minnesota to the Brazilian capital, where he meets Jewel (Anne Hathaway), a feisty captive who despises Blu not only for his meek acceptance of his status as a pet, but his inability to fly.

As Blu is the last male of his species, it’s imperative the pair become love-birds, but dastardly smugglers interrupt the proposed cooing and billing. Directed by Carlos Saldanha, Rio is a blend of comedy, romance and adventure, as Blu and Jewel — aided and abetted by friends Nico (Jamie Foxx) and Pedro (will.i.am) — shake their tail-feathers against the dazzling backdrop of Rio’s spectacular carnivale.

The story is predictable and the voice characterisation is bland — Eisenberg is the only contributor to invest his nerdy, gaffe-prone character with any real personality.

The animation, a lushly vibrant splash of colour that neatly evokes Rio’s iconic landmarks, compensates.

SNAP (16s) arrives in the midst of a purple patch for Irish film, and could hold its head high in any company. Written and directed by Carmel Winters, the story opens with embittered mother Sandra (Aising O’Sullivan) addressing a documentary camera crew on the events of three years previously, when her teenage son Stephen (Stephen Moran) abducted a toddler. Grim in tone, leavened with shards of pitch-black humour, the story unfolds in a non-linear fashion, as Winters employs interview footage, grainy home movies, CCTV and straightforward narrative technique to jump between past and present.

The ambitious story-telling is rewarded with excellent performances from O’Sullivan and Moran, and strong support from Eileen Walsh playing Sandra’s sister, while the film benefits hugely from the gut-sucking tension of watching Stephen’s mood swings switch between a naive tenderness and random cruelty as he toys with the toddler.

Kate McCullough’s cinematography adds a claustrophobic element, while a number of twists designed to undermine the viewer’s preconceptions draw us deeper into the unfolding tragedy. The film works as a psychological study of a horrendously dysfunctional family unit, and as a compelling drama. An impressively assured feature-length debut.

IT’S mothers who are abducted in Mars Needs Moms (PG), an animated Disney tale in which Martians come to earth to steal away disciplinarians to raise their unruly broods back on the Red Planet.

Young Milo (voiced by Seth Green) stows away on the spacecraft that steals his mother (Joan Cusack), and strikes up a friendship with the subterranean man-child Gribble (Dan Fogler) when he reaches Mars. Can the unlikely pair, helped by native Martian Ki (Elizabeth Harnois), rescue Milo’s mom?

An adventure romp, Mars Needs Moms has an old-fashioned matinee appeal despite its shiny sci-fi effects, the relentless pace, and Milo’s derring-do and gung-ho exploits which are reminiscent of a pre-teen Indiana Jones.

The characterisations are thin, but the movie is aimed at a young audience, who will probably delight in watching grown-ups get their comeuppance.

A DANGEROUS obsession provides the plot in The Roommate (15A), when aspiring fashion designer Sara (Minka Kelly) finds herself sharing a college dorm room with Rebecca (Leighton Meester).

The pair bond due to their shared artistic ambitions, but their relationship sours when Rebecca begins to resent Sara’s friendship with fellow student Tracy (Alyson Michalka) and burgeoning romance with Stephen (Cam Gigandet).

What follows is an overly familiar story reminiscent of Single White Female (1992), and which steals the infamous ‘bunny-boiling’ scene from Fatal Attraction (1987). Its attempts to crank up the tension are undermined by insipid performances by Kelly and Meester in the lead roles, and a lack of chemistry between Kelly and Gigandet. The telegraphed plot twists are an insult to the audience’s intelligence.

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