Flying high with Blu and other feathered friends

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By H.B. Forman
21st Century Media News Service

Actor Jesse Eisenberg is thrilled to step into his feathered character of Blu once again in the animated feature film “Rio 2,” which opens April 11.

Blu (Jesse Eisenberg), Jewel (Anne Hathaway) and their three kids are joined by Rafael (George Lopez), Nico (Jamie Foxx) and Pedro (will.i.am) on their Amazon adventure.

Blu (Jesse Eisenberg), Jewel (Anne Hathaway) and their three kids are joined by Rafael (George Lopez), Nico (Jamie Foxx) and Pedro (will.i.am) on their Amazon adventure.

From the creators of “Ice Age” and the original Rio movie, “Rio 2” lets us spend time with Blu (Eisenberg), Jewel (Anne Hathaway) and their three children after they leave their domesticated life in Rio de Janeiro and head to the wilds of the Amazon rainforest. They encounter a menagerie of characters who are born to be wild.

Upon arrival, the family comes across Jewel’s long-lost father, in hiding with a group of other Spix’s Macaws. They realize that their Amazonian habitat is threatened and that Blu and Jewel’s old nemesis, Nigel the cockatoo, is returning for revenge.

As Blu tries to fit in, he literally goes beak-to-beak with the vengeful Nigel (Jemaine Clement), and meets the most fearsome adversary of them all: his father-in-law.

Voice actors for the colorful, humorous, and uplifting animated film from Blue Sky Studios and 20th Century Fox also include Rodrigo Santoro, Jamie Foxx, George Lopez, Leslie Mann, Rita Moreno and Bruno Mars.

The 30-year-old Eisenberg was introduced to show business at a young age because it ran in the family. The New York-born actor, who has two sisters, saw his mother, Amy, perform as a professional clown with numerous gigs at children’s birthday parties. His father, Barry, ran a hospital before moving on to become a college professor.

Eisenberg got his start in children’s theater are the tender age of 10. His first professional role was in an off-Broadway play, “The Gathering,” and his first TV role was in 1999 with “Get Real.”

His career was launched in 2002 with his performance in “Roger Dodger,” for which he the Most Promising New Actor award at the San Diego Film Festival.

His breakthrough role came in 2009 in “Zombieland.” In 2010, he was nominated for best actor at the Golden Globes and Academy Awards for his role of Facebook’s creator, Mark Zuckerberg, in the film “The Social Network.”

Eisenberg said he gets recognized by fans when walking down the street more since his film success and has tasted a bit of fame. But for him, it is about enjoying the work.
“It just seems to me that it’s always a struggle to find something that you really love doing,” he said. “And that the more you act, the better you get at it. It’s that simple.”

Eisenberg said it was a great deal of fun — and hard work — to explore his character of Blu once again.

“They allow me to bring my own sense of humor to it. It’s a lot of fun to do. But it’s this extremely painstakingly long process. Every blade of grass in Brazil is drawn, so it takes so long to do.”

He said that doing voice work is an unusual experience because as an actor he is not there for the day-to-day activity.

“When you’re acting in a live action movie, you’re rehearsing with your other cast members, oftentimes living together in a strange location where you’re filming a movie,” he said. “You become kind of a dysfunctional family.”

But in a movie like “Rio” and “Rio 2,” which are both animated, you never work with or even meet the other voice actors.

“At the same time, I kind of wished that I had the opportunity to work with them in person, because you’re just recording your part in a booth with headphones. The director, Carlos Saldanha, is just dancing around, doing several different parts and several strange voices, and acting like a child,” Eisenberg said. “These characters they’ve created are so sweet. The new film is really cute and very funny”

“Rio” is about a bird named Blu, who is the last male of his kind. He’s living in the snowy climate of Minnesota in a very quaint, quiet town when he’s asked to come down to Rio, Brazil, to mate with the last female of his kind. When Blu gets down there, it’s a culture shock between the music and the humidity.

What initially attracted Eisenberg to the first “Rio” movie is the strong message it sends to children of all ages.

“The first movie is a story of Blu discovering who he’s meant to be, what his destiny would have been had he stayed in Rio. My character is about to become extinct and is a real species that is actually endangered. So that’s really special for me. There are so many other reasons to love the movie — the beautiful music and the most spectacular animation.”

A soundtrack for the film was released March 25 by Atlantic Records.

In addition to the actors singing, he said that “we have some of the most amazing musicians in the world performing as well as acting in the movie. The music from Brazil is world-famous and beloved, around the world. The music is a nice way into this culture.”

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Mike Berman