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How "Rio 2" matches up to "Rio"

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The 2011 animated film "Rio" enchanted audiences with the story of a misfit blue macaw who travels to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. On April 11, 2014, the beloved Blu and his family return in an exciting sequel. This time, the birds and their hilarious friends are headed on an Amazon adventure. Before the film's release, audiences were wary that the sequel would seem more like a tacked-on marketing ploy than a true continuation of the story. Although it may not exceed the high standards set by the first film, "Rio 2" still surpassed audience expectations on many levels.

"Rio 2" picks up where its predecessor left off, with Blu and Jewel living in a wildlife preserve with their three chicks. When their human friends Linda and Tulio discover evidence of more Spix's macaws living in the Amazon rain forest, Jewel convinces Blu that they should take their kids out of the comfort of their modern lifestyle to rekindle their wild spirit in the Amazon. They stumble upon the lost flock of blue macaws, who turn out to be Jewel's family, and countless adventures ensue.

Upon learning the plot of the film, viewers may ask why the sequel is called "Rio 2" when it does not take place in Rio de Janeiro. The film's setting in Rio was one of the most important aspects of "Rio," so many are rightfully questioning how "Rio 2" can effectively carry on the tone, story and other elements brought to life in the first film without the namesake city. However, despite this major change, the film often feels like a logical continuation of the beloved "Rio."

The same team that worked on "Rio" returned to create this amusing sequel, so viewers are sure to notice a similar tone expressed by both films. Like "Rio," the sequel includes colorful, expressive animation, plenty of humor that appeals to all ages and strong musical numbers. The plot of the first film continues in the sequel, but a number of interesting sub-plots are added as well.

Although new characters are introduced, "Rio 2" brings back all the witty animals that viewers loved from the first film. Blu is just as nerdy and hilarious as ever, and Jewel keeps her reputation as a strong, caring bird. Nico, Pedro and the infamous Nigel return, although Nigel takes on a more comical role in this sequel. All of the original voice actors return for "Rio 2," including Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway, will.i.am and others. Some of the new talents introduced include Bruno Mars, Kristin Chenoweth and Rita Moreno.

Like the first film, "Rio 2" explores a central theme that reveals the real-life situation of the Spix's macaw and other endangered species. The plot of the original "Rio" revolves around the illegal animal trade, a problem that has contributed to the endangered status of countless Amazon bird species. The sequel continues the director's desire to educate the audience by centering on the deforestation of the birds' native habitat.

Thanks to Brazilian director Carlos Saldanha, "Rio 2" also continues the original film's emphasis on Brazilian culture. The first film uses the city of Rio de Janeiro for this purpose, and "Rio 2" shows viewers another side of the country through the beautiful Amazon rain forest. Very few humans are featured in this film, but the animals express the culture through their performances, which is especially evident during the football/soccer scene. Even the names of the characters, such as Gabi, Tiago and Carla, are typical of the country.

The original "Rio" garnered endless praise for its musical numbers featuring samba melodies and lyrics in both Portuguese and English. The second film continues this tradition with catchy numbers like "Ô Vida" and "What Is Love." Both films infuse American pop and hip hop sounds into traditional Brazilian music. The soundtrack for the second film features Janelle Monáe, Bruno Mars and Kristin Chenoweth, among others.

"Rio 2" features the same charm and clever humor seen in the first film, but it also introduces some unique elements that are sure to leave audiences pleasantly surprised. Kids and adults who enjoyed "Rio" are likely to enjoy the sequel. Although the animation is stunning in 2D, it was clearly made to be experienced in 3D just like "Rio." The beautiful scenery and pop-out effects may even surpass those of the original film.

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