With the eyes of the world fixed on Brazil ahead of this summer's World Cup, animated sequel Rio 2 (2014) swoops into cinemas looking to once again put the country on the map for all the right reasons. Whilst the illegal wildlife trade was a passing concern of the first film, the more prominent issue of deforestation now comes into play for returning director Carlos Saldanha's colourful follow-up. Unfortunately, whereas Blu's (Jesse Eisenberg, in his second film this week) Rio homecoming offered considerable warmth - if little of note besides - Rio 2's Amazon adventure finds its wings clipped by more tired and unnecessary subplots than you can shake a feather at.
New additions to the voice cast this time round include a typically gruff Andy Garcia as Blu's doubting father-in-law Eduardo, US singer Bruno Mars as preening parrot pin-up Roberto and Kristin Chenoweth as poison arrow frog Gabi, who harbours an unhealthy (and impracticable) interspecial infatuation with the Shakespeare-spouting, Iago-aping Nigel. Sadly, none of the aforementioned trio make their mark on what is very much a paint-by-numbers second franchise outing. As was the case with Saldanha's Rio, it's really only Clement's vengeance-craving Nigel that will linger in the memory. His signature song is once again the highlight, even if it is a somewhat lazy cover of a disco classic (Gloria Gaynor's I Will Survive) with a fine sprinkling of Flight of the Concords-esque lyrical witticisms ("If you try to cut me short, I'll just come back longer / If you beat me at ping pong, I'll just play ping ponger").
The maniacal Nigel aside, there's scant substance to set apart Rio 2 from almost every other non-Disney/Pixar mainstream animation of the past few years. Its ecological concerns (Blu's new rainforest home is under threat from logging) have been explored far more fruitfully in Bill Kroyer's FernGully: The Last Rainforest (1992), whilst the most patronising of the film's core messages - "Happy wife, happy life." - is hardly a progressive principle to be teaching its undoubtedly intelligent target audience. It's this fundamental underlying underestimation of young cinemagoers that separates Saldanha's two efforts; whereas the former celebrated the conquering of one's fears, the latter shoehorns in an X Factor-style talent show to commend the crucial cultural contribution made by reality television. As the once twee, now plainly irritating Will.i.am himself once questioned: "Where is the love?"