Director: Carlos Saldanha
Runtime: 91 minutes
Starring: Anne Hathaway, Jesse Eisenberg, George Lopez
Rent or buy the DVD
Common Sense Media rating: 6+
Moviefone Mama Says: It was director Carlos Saldanha's dream to create an animated film set in his native Brazil, so the story feels equally like a love letter to the country as a double-romance about two opposites-attract birds and their star-crossed owners. With its vibrant, eye-popping colors and catchy samba rhythms, this is the kind of movie that feels like an invitation to book a flight to South America, change into glittery swimwear and start parading in a carnival. The main characters -- blue macaws Blu (Eisenberg) and Jewel (Hathaway), as well as their doting human counterparts Linda (Leslie Mann) and Tulio (Rodrigo Santoro) are accompanied by a crew of talented supporting birds: the singing Pedro and Nico, played by will.i.am and Jamie Foxx, and the always-funny George Lopez as Rafael, a fatherly toucan, and Jemaine Clement as an evil cockatoo. There are a few dangerous close-calls, especially when Blu and Jewel fall into the hands of exotic bird poachers, but overall this is a festive film pick for families.
Did You Know? The Latin-flavored score is by Grammy-winning composer Sérgio Mendes, a native Brazilian, and includes tracks by musical cast members Jemaine Clement, will.i.am and Jamie Foxx, as well as famous fellow Brazilians Bebel Gilberto and Gracinha Leporace.
Parent Concerns: Preschoolers and sensitive younger viewers might be frightened of the human smugglers, especially their vicious leader, but it's the white cockatoo Nigel, voiced by Clement, that is disturbingly brutal (he sings a song explaining his cruelty).
Here are three talking points to extend your moviegoing experience.
1. Best Animal Movies: Blu and Jewel are in very good company when it comes to animal protagonists in animated films. Why are we so drawn to talking-animal stories? How does Blu's journey compare to other recent animal tales, like 'Rango' or 'Kung Fu Panda 2'? What kind of animals do you want to see "star" in their own movie? My kids vote to see a movie about a Styracosaurus, a koala bear or a unicorn.
2. Changing Your Ways: The big theme in 'Rio' is transformation. Blu and Linda come from a small town in Minnesota, but during their adventure in Rio, they learn to take risks and show more outgoing, courageous sides of their personality, like when super-shy Linda even pretends to be a carnival dancer to see if she can spot her pet bird, or when Blu persists in learning to fly. How is this a lesson for our own personalities? Do we have the power to change how we act, even if people know us as being shy, quiet, loud, klutzy, etc?
3. Red Hot 'Rio': Many movies aimed at children could be placed anywhere -- a random suburb or even fictional locale. But Rio (and Brazil) is essentially another character in the movie. We see the beautiful beaches, the exotic animals, but also the reality of poverty experienced by street kids like Fernando (Jake T. Austin). What do we learn about the famous South American destination? How do Linda and Blu change by being in Rio?
Three to See: More Animal Adventures
1. '101 Dalmatians': Dogs come together to save the day in this canine adventure featuring of my favorite Disney villains: the greedy Cruella de Vil.
2. 'Finding Nemo': It's one of the best father-son films in movie history. Fabulous undersea animation, memorable characters and a touching story make this an all-time fave.
3. 'Kung Fu Panda': Jack Black voices the martial-arts-obsessed panda who discovers his inner warrior in this sweet coming-of-age story with a memorable cast and action sequences.