Though director Carlos Saldanha’s RIO had everyone dancing in theater aisles, you ain’t seen (or heard) nothin’ yet when it comes to RIO 2 opening on April 11. The highly-anticipated sequel chronicles the on-going adventures of Blu (voiced by Jesse Eisenberg) and Jewel (voiced by Anne Hathaway), who now are raising a family in that titular city. But after news arrives that they might not be the only blue macaws in existence, they and their pals – Luiz (voiced by Tracey Morgan), Nico (voiced by Jamie Foxx), Raphael (voiced by George Lopez) and Pedro (voiced by Will.i.Am) – set out on the trip of a lifetime bound for the wilds of the Amazon. However, villainous Nigel (voiced by Jemaine Clement), who has a taste for revenge, has other plans for the pair.
I was lucky enough to attend a special presentation where we watched clips of the film.
Here’s what you should know about the sequel:
The cast from the original returns with some welcome new additions. While Eisenberg, Hathaway, Clement, Lopez, Foxx, Will.i.Am, Morgan, Leslie Mann and Rodrigo Santoro have all returned, filmmakers have brought in a few awesome additions. Andy Garcia, Rita Moreno, singer Bruno Mars (who also has a song on the soundtrack) and Kristin Chenoweth are all on board this time around.
There are three storylines that converge in one beautiful place – the Amazon. The film’s primary emotional storyline takes a hefty dose of inspiration from MEET THE PARENTS. In RIO 2, Jewel reunites with her stern father Eduardo (voiced by Garcia) and Blu spends the rest of the picture trying to impress him. Plus, Blu is trying (and failing) to dodge her suave, perfect ex-boyfriend Roberto (voiced by Mars). There’s also a secondary story thread that involves Nigel’s plan for revenge, which includes his own rag tag crew: Gabi (voiced by Chenoweth), a poisonous tree frog, and a mute anteater. All of these stories seem like they’ll be comedically converging on a talent show for Carnivale, put on by Pedro (voiced by Will.i.Am) and Nico (voiced by Jamie Foxx).
The RIO 2 soundtrack features Bruno Mars, Janelle Monáe, Barbatuques, Jemaine Clement and Kristin Chenoweth. Saldanha takes the original’s flavor to the next level with RIO 2. Monáe provides the music for the film’s catchy opening sequence, “What Is Love,” which is set to some eye-popping vibrant visuals. Barbatuques, a band from Brazil who creates music through body percussion, adds to the vibe and orchestration of the movie. And Clement and Chenoweth provide the film with a show-stopping number (which we saw in glorious, immersive 3D) sung to “I Will Survive.”
Jemaine Clement improv’d the rap in the middle of Nigel’s big musical number. Saldanha shares, “Part of the fun about working in this process is you get wonderful collaborators like Jemaine Clement. He’s an incredible artist who, together with Kristin, they just blossom as this amazing couple in the story. She with her high pitched voice and witty energy and him with this dastardly, fun, delicious villain approach. This is the pinnacle of their performance.”
There’s a hilarious, comedically-timed CATS song used. During the talent show auditions, the adorable Clara the capybara sings “Memory,” but is interrupted by a jungle cat.
Andy Garcia ad-libbed beat-boxing. Saldanha explains, “He’s very musical himself. We didn’t cast him for the music but he plays percussion – Cuban music. We were in a session and I said, ‘We’d love to do something [where] you celebrate with your kids somehow. How would you play with them musically?’ He said, ‘I can do a couple of [some? Sounds odd] beat-boxing stuff.’ He riffed for like four minutes. I never expected it out of him.”
RIO 2 explores parenting dynamics. In this iteration, Blu and Jewel have three young kids – Carla, voiced by Rachel Crow (former THE X-FACTOR contestant); Bia, voiced by Amandla Stenberg (THE HUNGER GAMES); and Tiago, voiced by Pierce Gagnon (LOOPER) – and are figuring out the best way to raise them.
Bruno Mars never thought of himself as a tough, deep-voiced hunky character – so the character was tweaked. Saldanha says, “I wasn’t finding a name and voice that felt right. I saw his SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE and really felt the possibility. We did a session together where he even said, ‘I’m not that guy!’ I said, ‘Let’s make it you and what you do best.’ People love him for the way he performs and how he’s smooth.”
Stay tuned to part two of this preview.
Courtney Howard is the Senior Editor/ LA Correspondent for VeryAware.com. She also is a contributing writer for ReelVixen.com. She resides in Southern California with her husband and perfect little dachshund.
* Courtney attended a media event to facilitate this review.