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Rio 2: Exploring Returning Home to Connect With Your Family's Roots

Much like it’s predecessor, Rio 2—opening everywhere April 11—immediately grabs your attention with a gorgeous backdrop. But unlike the first animated hit, this new installment is set primarily in the Brazilian amazon jungle. Returning as the feathered stars of the franchise are Blu (Jesse Eisenberg) and Jewel (Anne Hathaway), along with their sidekicks Nico (Jamie Foxx), Pedro (Will.i.am), and Rafael (George Lopez), and scientific human counterparts, Linda (Leslie Mann) and Tulio (Rodrigo Santoro). Plus, Rio 2 ramps up the Latino star power with a cast that includes super stars Andy Garcia, Rita Moreno and Bruno Mars.

The animated kids’ flick opens with the vivacious, Samba-like “What is Love,” sung by Janelle Monae, as our love birds dance the night away at Carnivale in Rio de Janeiro. We quickly learn that not only are Blu and Jewel together, but that they are parents to three precocious, modern, young macaws—each more interested in their latest gadgets than connecting with their parents. When Jewel finds out they are not the only blue macaws in existence, thanks to their human caretakers expedition, she immediately gears her family up for a long journey to the amazon where she’s originally from.

Through a series of events, Jewel not only connects with the other blue macaws, but finds her family, including her father, Eduardo (Andy Garcia), her aunt Mimi (Rita Moreno) and her former flame, Roberto (Bruno Mars). As Jewel reconnects with her roots, Blu struggles to fit into a new family life so different from his own upbringing. While facing his nemesis, Nigel (Jemaine Clement) and the lovesick, poisonous frog Gabi (Kristin Chenoweth), Blu finds a way to save his new home, and in turn, unite his new family.

We attended the world premiere in Miami, where we had the chance to talk with the cast about the movie, family, relationships and more.

INTERVIEW WITH THE RIO 2 CAST

latinamom.me: Who inspires you in your work?

Sergio Mendes: Many people, many. Not one person, many. Writers, painters, musicians, my parents and now my children. I've been inspired by (Carlos Saldanha) too. And working with young people for me has been a wonderful experience all my life, now with Janelle (Monae) and everybody here. That's what keeps me motivated.

Janelle Monae: I'm actually inspired by the youth. Writing music, being their soundtrack, being their choice of drug musically, just writing and trying to figure out how I can help make their lives a little bit more easy, because I've been really young before, and just playing that role in their lives is inspiring to me. It makes me feel like I have purpose and something to aim for.

Blu and Jewel kid are very disconnected from their cultural roots, and Jewel wants to go back to her roots and so they all head to the amazon to connect with their heritage. What do you think we as parents can help bring kids back to connecting with their culture?

Anne Hathaway: One night a week phones go off, family dinner. In the Jewish tradition, it's called Shabbat, but it's a great idea even if you're not Jewish. And on Friday at sundown, you put your phone away, don't pick it up until Saturday at sundown, and have family time. I try to practice that as much as possible, and it's really made my life better.

George Lopez: But, watch those kids freak out until they get used to it.

Andy Garcia: We don't wait 'til Fridays. I mean, we have big family and my family eats together all the time. (He laughs)... and we text each other from across the table all the time.

Jewel's kind of caught in the middle between her dad and her husband. What advice you might give for people to handle when they get kind of caught between everyone?

Jesse Eisenberg: See Rio 2 because it's really wonderful, just the way the movie depicts reconciling these very strange things, strange relationships. But, it does it in such a sweet way because in this movie, these characters are the same species but their cultural upbringing couldn't be more different.

[Blu] has to kind of learn to not just suppress what he's grown up with, but learn to kind of embrace what he's grown up with and take that in and learn to integrate that and assimilate with this new group. And it's done in such a sweet way and in such a kind of unpretentious way in this movie. And it has a nice message that's delivered through in a very sweet vehicle.

George Lopez: But, also as a friend of Blu, the bird, you go with him because you know he's really kind of not prepared for where he's going. And as a friend, you go with him with no judgment but just as a support. And I think that's good too in friends sometimes. People are quick to judge when you should probably just support first. People have to make their own mistakes.

The movie is so much about family relationships and different dynamics and so forth, with trying to figure out how do you fit in and how you make things work the way you want to. What are some of the recommendations that you have to kind of navigate some of the more tricky relationships with kids who don't want to be around you as they're getting older, or extended family that just doesn't quite get you?

Jesse Eisenberg: There's a great quote by Al Franken, the senator/comedian, and he said he spent a lot of time with this father when he was young, but they never did anything interesting together. And he always thinks that the adage of quality time over quantity time is wrong.

He said that it was better to just sit on the couch with his father doing nothing rather than seeing him every other weekend at a baseball game. And I always thought that was such a nice way to put it, but it does take more time.

Andy Garcia: You have to be present, as a father or as a mother in your child's life.

You’re going to make mistakes as you go along all the time as a parent, because we're not perfect. But, at the end of the day, they look back and they say, "He was always there and he was present."[...]At the end of the day, unconditional love and presence in their life is, I think, essential.

Carlos, you made Rio as a love letter to the city in Brazil. What is one thing you want kids and families to know about Brazil, the Amazon, Rio?

Carlos Saldanha: I want the kids just to be curious about it. And if they know a little bit about it, it's something that I want people to appreciate, understand it exists, and that it's important.

Rio 2 opens everywhere April 11 and is rated G.

MOVIE TRAILER

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