Rio tells the story of a nerdy, domesticated macaw named Blu (Jesse Eisenberg) is taken to Brazil by his owner, Linda (Leslie Mann,) to partner with the last female macaw and save his species. After he is separated from Linda, Blu, who never learned to fly, meets a variety of characters and explores Rio while trying to reunite with his owner.
A gorgeous look at a scrubbed Rio de Janeiro through the eyes of an American macaw, Rio is one of my favorite family movies so far this year. It’s good natured, sweet-hearted, and beautifully animated. Although the Rio we see is clean, sparkling, and filled with samba music, I don’t begrudge Brazilian director, Carlos Saldanha, nostalgia over realism (even the favelas are tidy.)
The soundtrack, from executive music producer Sergio Mendes, is a total winner. As I left the theater the audience was literally grooving to the music.
There’s enough gentle humor to appeal to adults, but Rio is truly rated G for the kids. (I didn’t notice any cheap, throw away jokes referencing pop culture–my number one pet peeve in kid movies.)
The trope of an American abroad (even if that American is a bird) and learning about himself in the process isn’t new, but the characters are interesting and well written. At its core, Rio is Saldanha’s love letter to the city. Would I take my kids to see Rio? Absolutely, they’d love it.
After watching Rio, I got to sit down for a round table discussion with Leslie Mann, who voices Linda. Leslie chatted about the process of creating a voice for animation and what it’s like to be a working mom.
Can you tell us a little bit about the film, as in how it worked with the filming? Were you by yourself or did you run lines with other cast members?
Leslie Mann: Well, I go into a room with Carlos, the director, who’s a sweetheart–he’s so sweet–and just read lines with him throughout the process. A long process! Over and over and over again. Each session would be for about four hours, and we would read the same lines numerous times. Toward the end, we would read against the picture after everything was animated. And that was the really fun part So, it’s funny because in the beginning, I’m thinking–I’m going to work, I’ll try to look nice, and then after the first few sessions, I was showing up in sweats and Ugg boots. It was definitely an easy, fun job.
How far do you go in terms of details to prepare your character, for example, Linda is from Minnesota, so what else did they tell you about her?
Yes, well I tried at least! I researched a little bit in the beginning about the Minnesota accent however, I’m terrible with accents. I tried to do it right in the beginning. And the team said, um, no don’t do that, just do your regular accent.
Do you get excited when you get to work on movies like Rio*****? Since you know you’ll be able to take your girls to see?\*
Is that one of your prime reasons for doing a project like Rio*****?\*
Yes, definitely, it is, because they can’t see the other films I’ve been in.
So with that being said, how do you keep [your kids] grounded growing up in Hollywood, the events, the movie sets, etc.?
I think they are used to it and they really have a very normal life. They just see this as our job.
Do you find it hard as a working mom balancing your family & your career?
Yes, it is hard. It was really hard in the beginning when I first became pregnant it was just such a shocker. I was depressed for about five years. I don’t know if I really had postpartum depression because back then no one would talk about it. I went to therapists [who] tried to prescribe me medication, but it didn’t work.I’d say it went on until I was three months pregnant with my second daughter, I was feeling pretty bad. And then, it just lifted. I remember thinking, is this going happen again with my second one? But it didn’t and it hasn’t yet.
Tell us one of your favorite things about being a mom
My eight year old loves to cuddle with me. She’s always holding my hand. All day, she’ll catch up to me and hold my hand.She also just loves to lay on me in bed, she’s just really sweet and cuddly and I love that.
Have you ever gotten really bad parenting advice?
Once, I was on a plane with my daughter Maude. She was screaming and screaming for a very long time. And someone came up to me said, “If you just take a little shiny thing and put it in front of her face it will calm her down. And I just wanted to you know that.” [laughter] I just wanted to hand her the screaming kid!
Rio opens April 15th.
Kids First Seal of Approval