Rio The Movie: Hang gliding’s Hollywood hero

Cross Country Magazine donned its 3D glasses and headed to the movies to see the hang gliding bit in Rio – The Movie

Hang gliding over Rio, the movie version. Image: 20th Century Fox

Hang gliding over Rio, the movie version. Image: 20th Century Fox

Is this the biggest thing to happen to hang gliding since they went topless? Will it make thousands of five-year-olds want to grow up to be the next Manfred Ruhmer? We had to find out.

Rio is an animated film from 20th Century Fox, made by creators of the classic Ice Age films. It’s about a blue macaw called Blu who is stolen from the forests of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. He spends the first 15 years of his life in cosseted comfort in a bookshop in Minnesota before fate knocks on his door and he is whisked back to Rio.

There, he is paired with the last remaining female blue macaw in the world. The conservationists hope the pair will mate and thus save the species. There’s only one problem. Blu can’t fly.

With no self-respecting chica prepared to look at a parrot who can’t fly things look bleak. Things get even bleaker when the pair are kidnapped by evil bird smugglers who plan to sell the pair for a king’s ransom.

With a bit of help from some birdy friends, the pair manage to escape – just – and end up where we want to come in: looking down on the hang glider ramp at Sao Conrado in the south of Rio. There follows a brilliant flying sequence, with the pair thermalling around Christ before landing on Ipanema Beach.

‘You did not feel it in here…’ Blu gets hang gliding lessons in Rio de Janeiro

If you’ve seen the trailer on YouTube you may well have seen about 50% of the flying in the movie. But the movie is more than the flying sequence – the whole 90 minutes is about the beauty of flight. This might just do for children’s imagination and air what Finding Nemo did for the underwater world.

In saying that, this is no Finding Nemo. It’s very definitely a cartoon for kids. The rendering of Rio and the characters is excellent, but it lacks the subtlety of something like, Toy Story say, or the brilliance of The Incredibles, both of which work on multiple levels for a child and adult audience alike.

It deserves its three stars that many reviewers have given it. We’d give it one more just for having flying in it, plus another for making us laugh out loud, which makes five for the fun of it.

If you have young kids then they will love it. The story is simple to follow and the soundtrack – especially the songs by US rapper – is really good. If you‘re there with children and just hanging out to see the flying, you have to wait about an hour to get to it. There’s a nice bit right at the end too.

The US hang and paragliding association has a whole campaign going in the States associated with this film. They’re in schools spreading the gospel of flight according to Blu. It’s a nice tie-up – better than your average product placement – and deserves success.

The only question left to answer is how did they get the flying sequences so right? One answer is Nader Couri, an award-winning filmmaker and legendary hang glider pilot in Rio. His clips are all over YouTube. In conversation with Cross Country last month he said the Rio filmmakers hadn’t been in touch but he liked to think his films had indeed been inspiration for the Hollywood moviemakers.

Here’s a clip from his 2005 award-winning film Asas: Um Sonho Carioca, Wings: A Rio Dream. The real birdman of Rio…

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