What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this animated adventure is colorful, musical, and romantic. There are a couple of frightening characters -- most notably a scary white cockatoo who relishes harming his fellow birds -- and a few bird smugglers (though most of them are dimwitted and not nearly as cold-blooded as their hench-bird). A couple of birds try to give the main character advice on how to attract his potential mate, and there are many sightings of men and women in skimpy/skin-tight Carnival costumes. Both the main lovebirds and their owners fall in love, so there are a few scenes of flirting and embracing, plus one brief kiss or nuzzle. Characters also use some insulting words, such as "idiots," "stupid," "losers," and "shut up." Linda and Jewel are strong, selfless female characters who are willing to put themselves at risk for freedom (and their loved ones), and kids and parents will learn a good bit about Brazilian customs, particularly Carnival, and what makes Rio such a unique place. Note: The movie is playing in 3-D in some theaters, which makes some scenes more vivid/intense.
What's the story?
Linda (voiced by Leslie Mann) and her pet blue macaw, Blu (Jesse Eisenberg), are the best of friends. They live in Moose Lake, Minn., where they run a bookstore together. One day, a Brazilian ornithologist named Tulio (Rodrigo Santoro) makes an unexpected visit, inviting Linda and Blu to visit his bird sanctuary in Rio so that Blu can meet -- and hopefully mate with -- the only other surviving parrot of his kind, Jewel (Anne Hathaway). Despite the fact that Blu can't fly, they agree to make the trip. But shortly after Blu meets Jewel, the two macaws are stolen by a group of smugglers that employs an evil white cockatoo named Nigel (Jemaine Clement) to do their dirty work. Blu and Jewel manage to escape, but they've always got Nigel close on their claws. Meanwhile, Tulio and Linda attempt to find their beloved birds by any means necessary, even it means navigating the chaos of Rio's annual Carnival parade.
Is it any good?
It's no surprise that RIO feels as much like a love letter to Brazil as a delightful love story between two birds and their owners. Director Carlos Saldanha (of Ice Age fame) has said it was his professional dream to create an animated film set in his native Brazil, and he's certainly succeeded. The movie's luscious color palette is so vibrant and the music (supervised by renowned Brazilian musician Sergio Mendes) so enchanting that most adults will want to book trips to Rio after the credits roll. The main quartet of characters is helped tremendously by supporting songbirds Pedro and Nico, played by The Black Eyed Peas' will.i.am and Jamie Foxx, as well as the always-funny George Lopez as Rafael, a toucan with a large family.
One of the best parts of the movie is the inclusion of Fernando (Jake T. Austin), a street orphan who at first works for the smugglers but later redeems himself by helping Tulio and Linda. Many filmmakers would have ignored the grittier side of their beloved city, but Saldanha shows us -- very believably -- that a boy like Fernando just wants somewhere to belong. Plot wise, there's nothing particularly surprising about Jewel and Blu's adventure, but the animals we meet on the way -- a group of tech-savvy marmosets that text "OOH OOH AH AH" to each other on pick-pocketed smartphones, Rafael's toucan family, and even the crazy Nigel (Clement obviously had a ball playing this sadistic bird, plus he gets to sing) -- and the backdrop of gorgeous Rio make this an exciting cinematic vacation for all families.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about the movie's characters and messages. Which of the characters are role models? How can you tell? What do they learn over the course of the movie?
What makes animal adventures so appealing? Why do filmmakers -- and families -- gravitate toward movies that have animals as their main characters?
The movie's location, Rio de Janeiro, is as much of a character as Linda and Blu. What did you learn about Rio, Brazilian customs, and cultural traditions?