It’s hard not to be cynical about the I Love You series of films, as they usually feel nothing more than a glorified tourism campaign. But then it’s also hard not to immediately fall in love and become soaked up by the way that they showcase some of the most beautiful cities in the world in a breezy, slightly compelling fashion. It’s quite the quandary.
The previous installments have revolved around the hubs of culture that are Paris and New York, and they included Gus Van Sant, The Coen Brothers, Alfonso Cuaron, Alexander Payne, Natalie Portman, and Bret Ratner directing the likes of Bradley Cooper, Orlando Bloom, Eli Wallach, Steve Buscemi, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Bob Hoskins. Because of the involvement of the above the series brims with cinematic potential, with everyone involved seemingly jumping at the unique opportunity to tell a short, shrift story in a specific way. But these restrictions also mean that there isn’t enough room for all of these tales to flourish.
Rio, I Love You continues its predecessors’ topsy-turvy tradition. But it’s more hit than miss and still manages to present us with tales that feel quintessentially Brazilian. It shifts from the glamorous to the rugged, with the two sometimes even crossing over to create a vibrant, vivid flavor. At the same time Rio, I Love You’s story also feels very safe and contained, and they only really touch on aspects of the city that are at the heart of its tourism campaigns.
But what does the film consist of? One vignette sees Emily Mortimer on holiday with her older, wheel-chair bound husband, while another revolves around Harvey Kietel disillusioned on a film set and intent on seeing the real Rio. Zig-zagging around these stories are Rodrigo Santoro as a ballerina, Jason Isaac in a tale that’s Rocky meets Indecent Proposal, a horny, blind vampire in the slums, as well as half a dozen other segments.
While not all of these scenes work, they each possess nice little cinematic touches that mean none of them are complete failures. Meanwhile Vincente Amorim, who also oversaw the opening and closing sequences, handles the transitions between these segments smoothly, creating a rewarding and whole film out of them.
However, despite being pleasant enough, Rio, I Love You never feels more than an elongated tourism advert, which has coincidentally been released just in time for the 2016 Olympics in the city. It doesn’t help that even before the opening scene we’re shown a seemingly never-ending list of sponsors that helped to fund the production, which immediately wrecks its integrity.
That doesn’t make basking in Rio De Janeiro any less enjoyable. Especially since if you’re not quite taken with a particular segment you know that another is just around the corner. But it’s never anything more than pleasant and quaint, and you’re likely to instantly forget about Rio, I Love You rather than savoring and recommending it to your nearest and dearest. That being said, I’d still be down to see Amsterdam, I Love You.