- Composed by John Powell
- Sony Classical / 2014 / 55m
Rio 2, my research has revealed, is the sequel to Rio, the popular 2011 animation from Blue Sky Studios. Hopefully that information proves useful. Back then, in what was not one of my more impressive pieces of writing, I rather dismissed John Powell’s score – he had burned himself out on animation, I thought, and it was time he did something else instead. The next four films he did after I wrote those words were Kung Fu Panda 2, Happy Feet 2, The Lorax and Ice Age: Continental Drift, so clearly he took my advice to heart. Then he took a break from film entirely for a couple of years before coming back with Rio 2; and next up is How To Train Your Dragon 2. The strange thing is, during my extensive preparations for writing this very “review” (all two paragraphs of it), I re-listened to Rio; and found it to be really rather delightful. I’m not sure what was wrong with me the day I wrote that one – perhaps it was my time of the month – but clearly I am in a much more cheerful frame of mind at the moment. And the good news is – Rio 2 is even better. From the moment the album starts, with a magnificent samba arrangement of Alfred Newman’s Fox Fanfare, you just know it’s going to be great fun.
The familiar, sweet main theme from the first film returns, as does the typical Powell orchestral derring-do, as he almost always uses in these animations. What’s different is that there’s a slightly higher emphasis this time on Brazilian rhythms, the composer employing the services of the native band Uakti, who inject a wonderful sense of fun and a great energy whenever they appear. There’s a great set of themes here, too, memorable and magical, Powell throwing them around a huge number of variations over the course of the score. It’s a lovely album – full of charm, wit, terrific orchestral music; a very pleasurable way of spending an hour. There’s adventure in spades, moments of wit (I just love the woodwind impersonations of bird calls), an occasional bout of 60s-style “light music”; above all, just the most wonderful fun – music with a smile on its face whose infectious spirit quickly passes on to the listener. The 2014 version of James Southall understands why the 2011 version wanted John Powell to spend more time on more serious films; but damn it, he’s just so good at these and Rio 2 is fabulous.