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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Americano, an animated family film made in Mexico and adapted for English-speaking audiences, is a colorful, multicultural tale that is set both in Mexico and California. A young parrot, obsessed with a U.S. television superhero, journeys from his home to Hollywood, hoping to enlist the powerful bird's help in rescuing his family from a revenge-fueled, villainous kingfisher. In this English-language version, bits of conversation, signage, and most of the music are in Spanish. It's well-integrated so the story and characters are always understood. Lots of cartoon action and a mean villain provide suspense and scares: chases, scuffles, narrow escapes, and fights throughout. Affirmative messages about patience, finding one's "inner hero," as well as respect for tradition and family are gently incorporated. Appropriate for kids who can comfortably discern the difference between pretend and real violence.
What's the story?
Cuco (voiced by Rico Rodriguez) is restless when AMERICANO opens. Other than being obsessed by El Americano, a wildly popular American TV superhero, the young parrot is bored with his life in Mexico, especially his family's local circus -- same ol' show, same ol' audience. Why can't they do something different, more adventurous and spectacular? Gayo, his dad (Edward James Olmos), encourages Cuco's patience, extolling the beauty of tradition. Cuco's thirst for adventure is satisfied soon enough but not very happily. The evil Martin (Cheech Marin), bent on revenge for events that happened long ago, attacks the circus, captures Gayo's family, and attempts to take control of the show. Only Cuco, along with a loyal canary and stork, escapes. Cuco is frantic. His only hope is that perhaps he can make his way to Hollywood and get help from El Americano! What follows is a treacherous journey during which Cuco and his friends must face all manner of obstacles, not the least of which comes from the villains Martin has sent to bring him back. Back at home, Gayo and his family are tormented by their enemy. Among the many surprises that Cuco finds along the way are intriguing creatures, beautiful sights, and the unexpected awareness that El Americano may not be the only superhero in the world.
Is it any good?
Vibrant animation, inventive characters, and the sounds of English and Spanish beautifully integrated in both dialogue and music make this otherwise routine story worth a recommendation. The heroic parrot, Rico Rodriguez, the lovable "Manny" from TV's popular Modern Family, learns much about himself in Americano as he takes an adventurous road trip (or "air" trip) across the Mexico-U.S. border, encountering an array of oddballs -- mostly birds of all feathers and a "surfer" rat. Paul Rodriguez, Lisa Kudrow, and Erik Estrada add some humor to the mix. The filmmakers' takes on the U.S.-Mexico border, the San Diego Zoo, and other landmarks are refreshing, as well.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the fact that Americano combines both Spanish and English in conversation, music, and cultural references. Why do you think filmmakers who adapted this film for English-speaking audiences kept the Spanish musical lyrics and made a few of the characters only Spanish-speaking? Even if you couldn't understand every word, did you enjoy the blend of the two cultures and two languages?
What does it take to be a hero? What did Cuco learn about himself over the course of his journey?
What is meant by the statement, "Dreams do come true but not always as we expected"?
How do characters show courage?
Find more movies that help kids build character.
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