'Rio 2' Gives Kids One Message Modern Parents Can Get Behind

Rio2 If you're looking to get your kids to put down the gadgets and get back to nature, the last place you'd expect to get that message is inside a movie theater. But if there's one thing the new animated flick, Rio 2, really has going for it, it's a message that parents can get behind.

The follow-up to 2011's Rio, the movie that introduced kids to a blue macaw named Blue (played by Jesse Eisenberg) and his lady love, Jewel (played by Anne Hathaway), flies into theaters this weekend and brings with it a whole new cast of colorful characters. Brought together in the first film because they were the last of their species in existence, Jewel and Blue are now married with three kids, living a rather human-like existence in the city with their owners.

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To the despair of the wild-raised Jewel, their kids listen to iPods and eat pancakes as the neurotic Blue tries to keep the last of his kind safe ... only Blue and Jewel are about to find out that they're not the only blue macaws left.

A section of the rain forest is filled with macaws who just so happen to be Jewel's family members and old boyfriend (hey, it's a movie!). Together with their kids, an odd assortment of feathered friends, and -- unbeknownst to them -- a ragtag group of stalking predators (played by the deliciously evil Jemaine Clement and Kristin Chenoweth), Jewel and Blue set off on an Amazonian adventure that takes them out of the city of Rio de Janeiro and straight into nature.

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You get where I'm going with this, don't you? This is a movie all about getting your kids' butts off the couch and back outside, about being one with nature and loving it.

In Miami for the film's world premiere a few weeks ago, I asked Rio 2 director (and co-writer) Carlos Saldanha if the film was a commentary on the state of today's kids, and the father of four laughed before 'fessing up:

"Look, sometimes I have to say I'm guilty of just giving the iPad on the plane or iPad in a restaurant; it's a very relatable thing," he said. "But there are some times that we just say turn off the TV, get off of the iPod. Come on, you have a beautiful beach outside. You have a beautiful place. You have outdoors. You have your backyard. Just go out there and play. Be kids, you know? You don't need it all the time.

"I think it's a message that is not only personal, but is also something that a lot of the parents will relate to it," he continued.

Indeed it's a message parents can't help but note in the film, but Saldanha is careful not to bash it over our heads, although that may be because he was too busy trying to fit in a lesson about protecting the rain forest in a sometimes over-loaded plot.

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The film does present a few concerns for parents, among them a Romeo and Juliet-themed scene that makes light of suicide, but by and large, it's a fun romp with beautiful scenery that kids will love and parents won't hate.

Sergio Mendes' spicy Latin music -- and the introduction of Kristin Chenoweth's plucky poisoning tree frog Gabi -- are the true stars of the film. And if you find your kids dancing in the aisles, well, it's better than sitting on the couch.

What was your favorite part of the original Rio? Will you be taking the kids to see the sequel?

 

Image via Fox

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