Wednesday, April 2, 2014


Nigel, the smart villainous cockatoo that was left flightless in the worldwide hit “Rio” has caught the eye and heart of a toxic frog named Gabi (voiced by Kristin Chenoweth) in the latest family adventure “Rio 2” from Blue Sky Studios.  Our favorite “Rio” characters Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway, Sergio Mendes, Jemaine Clement, George Lopez, Tracy Morgan and Jamie Foxx are joined by Oscar nominee Andy Garcia, Grammy winner Bruno Mars, Tony® winner Kristin Chenoweth and Oscar/Emmy®/Tony winner Rita Moreno.  RIO 2 also features new Brazilian artists and original music by Janelle Monáe and Wondaland.

Now, Saldanha returns to Brazil and reunites his beloved characters in “Rio 2.”  In the new film, it’s a jungle out there for Blu, Jewel and their three kids, after they’re hurtled from Rio to the wilds of the Amazon. As Blu tries to fit in, he goes beak-to-beak with the vengeful and villainous Nigel, and meets the most fearsome adversary of all…his father-in-law. 

When Jewel decides the kids need to learn to live like real birds, she insists the family venture to the Amazon.  Blu tells his buddies of his travel plans, but Nico, Pedro and Luiz warn him of the myriad dangers that could lie ahead in the wild.  But the ever-positive Rafael encourages Blu, reminding him that “a happy wife means a happy life!”

Meanwhile, the treacherous cockatoo Nigel plots his revenge on Blu, aided by Gabi (Kristin Chenoweth), a cute poisonous frog who is fiercely loyal to Nigel and though small in stature, possesses a huge villainous heart.  While Blu deals with rigors of jungle life, a disapproving father-in-law, and a potential rival for Jewel’s affections, yet another threat looms.  Nigel, who suffered the most undignified of indignities at the end of “Rio,” is back. He’s followed Blu and Jewel to the Amazon, and now he’s hungry for payback. For Nigel, revenge is a dish best served cold…and with lots of blue feathers.

In “Rio,” Nigel was defeated by what he calls “the pretty birds,” including Blu, with the wily cockatoo losing his feathers in the process.  Now he flies like a chicken and works as fortune-teller’s assistant at a third-rate street fair.  Nigel isat the lowest point in his life, and he’s not happy about it. So when he sees the blue birds that have caused him so much misery, he seeks vengeance.  “He’s had some bad luck, professionally,” says Jemaine Clement, who returns as Nigel. 

As he did in “Rio,” Clement focused on the character’s less unsavory qualities.  “Nigel’s predominant passions are Shakespeare, alliteration, revenge, and attention,” he notes.  “He is still evil but Nigel really wants to return to acting.  Sometimes that can affect his focus on evil-doing.”

Nigel’s dreams of show business glory take flight in a particularly telling moment.  As he prepares to deal with Blu once and for all, Nigel instead ends up taking center stage, in disguise, at the auditions overseen by Nico, Pedro and Rafael.  Nigel comes up with an act, on the fly, which sparks his inner artist.  His rendition of the Gloria Gaynor standard “I Will Survive” (with special parody lyrics by Clement and co-screenwriter Yoni Brenner) is a big hit.  In fact, Nigel is told he’s made the cut for the musical extravaganza!

Nigel’s henchperson – hench-frog, that is – is an amorous amphibian named Gabi, who is deeply in love with Nigel – “understandably so, of course,” says Clement.  The tragedy of their love is that they can’t canoodle because Gabi is highly toxic – and Nigel has no interest in her, anyway.  Indeed, he often finds her to be quite annoying.

Venomous adoration doesn’t prevent Gabi from trying to bond with her wannabe soul mate.  “Gabi wants to make Nigel proud of her,” says Kristin Chenoweth, who voices the role. “That is why she’s always by his side and hoping he notices her in the way she wants to be noticed, which of course he doesn’t.  Gabi will do whatever it takes to keep Nigel safe and happy and where he belongs, which is on the stage.”

“Poisonous Love,” with music by Carlinhos Brown and John Powell, lyrics by Randy Rogel, and performed by Kristin Chenoweth and Jemaine Clement, is one of Powell’s favorites.  The scene has the toxic amphibian proclaiming her love for the cocky cockatoo.  “I must admit that every time we get to ‘Poisonous Love,’ I always end up laughing,” says Powell.  “There’s something about the passion with which Kristin sang, as well.  She just goes for it and when performed with that much belief, you’re on the edge of laughing and crying simultaneously.”

Another show-stopping musical moment comes with Jemaine/Nigel and Kristin/Gabi’s impromptu rendition of the classic Gloria Gaynor hit “I Will Survive,” during the Amazon auditions.  The parody lyrics are by Jemaine Clement and co-screenwriter Yoni Brenner.

Powell was initially surprised, if not shocked by that song choice, but he notes, “When they showed me the scene, I suddenly realized, oh, they’re on to something here. And when Jemaine performed the song and added a rap section he had written, which happened, literally, while we were recording his vocals, it really came together.  He started coming up with these incredibly funny lines.  The hardest thing with Jemaine is to pick the lines you want, because there were so many great ones. And Kristin was the perfect partner, adding her own special touches and fun to the tune.”

“Rio 2” in 3D and 2D will open nationwide in theaters on April 9 from 20th Century Fox to be distributed by Warner Bros.

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