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5 Things Parents Can Learn from the Movie Inside Out

My family (Tween Son, Teen Daughter, Father, Mother) attended a pre-screening last week for Disney Pixar’s new film, Inside Out, in theaters now.

(Disclosure: we were guests at the theater.)

Each of us loved the movie, for different reasons. Son liked it for the cartoon-y feel, bright colors, and fast pace. Daughter liked it for pulling on her heartstrings. Father liked it for the multi-layered humor that Pixar is so good at (as in virtually any episode of The Simpson, there is in-your-face kid humor alongside more subtle adult humor).

I, the Mother, liked the film because

Kevin Costner’s “Black or White”–What it Says about Adoption & Race

Though Black or White earns its adoption stripes through simple kinship adoption (Kevin Costner and Octavia Spencer vie for custody of the granddaughter they share, Eloise, played by the luminous Jillian Estell), the bigger message for adoptive families is the devastating split a person can experience when divided in two by color, race, biology and/or biography. And how not dealing with tough emotions such as anger and grief rarely means they resolve on their own.

Movie review: Rio 2 dazzling but overloaded

A vivid and delightful animated spectacle, “Rio 2” is chock-full of colorful 3-D wonder and jubilant musical numbers set against a tale of family dynamics and environmental dilemmas.

The sequel opens with a vibrant New Year’s Eve bash, as partying in the music-filled streets of Rio de Janeiro is punctuated by fireworks bursting above the Christ the Redeemer statue.

Supervised by composer John Powell, more emphasis has been placed on the music of this film, which benefits from numbers by artists like Bruno Mars (who also voices the smooth bird Roberto in the film), Janelle Monae and celebrated Brazilian musician Carlinhos Brown.

After mating in Brazil in 2011’s “Rio,” rare macaws Blu (Jesse Eisenberg) and Jewel (Anne Hathaway) now have three lively kids who have become accustomed to the same domestication Blu was brought up on in Minnesota. They’re attached to gadgets like iPods and eat pancakes for breakfast, which irks the raised-in-the-wild Jewel.

But the family heads off to the Amazon rainforest, to Jewel’s delight and Blu’s strife, when they get wind that a tribe of blue macaws may live there and are being pursued by Blu’s past owner and animal lover, Linda (voiced by Leslie Mann), and her husband, Tulio (Rodrigo Santoro).

With a few of the quirky supporting characters from the first film in tow — including birds voiced by George Lopez (as frisky toucan Rafael) and Jamie Foxx and will.i.am (as rapping canary-and-cardinal duo Nico and Pedro) — they soar through a dazzling journey to the rainforest, making the often-wasted 3-D effect worth it as we take in the broad scope and graphically layered flair.

Once there, Jewel discovers the large macaw crew is led by her long-lost father (Andy Garcia), who is unimpressed with his daughter’s choice of a mate. He can’t help but roll his eyes over Blu’s use of a GPS or a Swiss Army kit rather than the use of his own sharp beak. But their classic in-law banter is sublimely comical.

Brazilian native writer-director Carlos Saldanha and Don Rhymer returned to pen the story. But they try too hard to make up for the minimalist plot of the original and drown in subplots: Blu battles with Jewel over staying in the wild versus returning to the city; Linda and Tulio clash with a few bad guys threatening to cut down the rainforest (the film’s eco push); and Blu’s old rival, Niguel (Jemaine Clement of “Flight of the Conchords”), pops up with a beautiful yet poisonous neon pink and purple frog (an angelic and cutesy Kristin Chenoweth) plotting revenge. Phew!

And then there are the moments when characters break out into song. Niguel’s hotshot rendition of Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” seems a little ill-set when he really should be crooning a sinister track a la Ursula’s “Poor Unfortunate Souls” in “The Little Mermaid.”

The sweet voice of Hathaway shines with her solo lullaby. But it’s Chenoweth’s Broadway-like delivery that trumps all when she belts out an anthem on forbidden love. Though the original songs here are whimsical and fun, few are irresistible.

With so much going on, it’s a wonder this kids’ movie is only five minutes longer than the original. But for the music and brilliantly picturesque look, it’s worth the 3-D ticket.

“Rio 2,” a 20th Century Fox release, is rated G by the Motion Picture Association of America. Running time: 101 minutes. Three stars out of four.

Jessica Herndon,

Associated Press

 

“Planes” review: It’s not Pixcar, but it’s worth the big-screen ride

“I am more than just a cropduster!” Dusty Crophopper proclaims at the beginning of “Planes,” and it’s hard not to sigh.

In recent years we’ve seen a penguin that wants to dance, a video game villain who wants to be a good guy and, most recently, a snail that wants to be a race car. The children of the world get it. You can be whatever you want if you work really hard and have charming sidekicks.

But after a trying first act, this DisneyToon Studios release finds a nice cruising altitude, embarking on a world tour that yields some pleasant surprises. “Planes” was supposed to debut direct to video, before Disney decided it was deserving of the big screen. (Story idea: A video store cassette that dreams of being a theatrical release!) “Planes” is no “Toy Story 2,” but it was certainly worthy of the promotion.

Dusty (voiced by Dane Cook) is a small-town cropduster who finds a mentor in a relic war plane named Skipper (Stacy Keach) and yearns to compete in a Grand Prix-style race around the world. If that sounds like “Cars” and “Cars 2” — the movie poster tagline also references the connection — know that this film tries to distance itself from its Pixar distant cousins. There’s no Lightning McQueen. No Radiator Springs. Even John Ratzenberger gets to voice a completely new character. Looking at the history of spinoffs as related to their source material, “Planes” feels less like “The Penguins of Madagascar” and more like “Prometheus.”

“Despicable Me 2” review: A little less heart, a lot more humor

“Despicable Me” had two big things going for it — heart and humor.

“Despicable Me 2” doesn’t have nearly as much heart, but it makes up for that deficiency with a lot more humor.

It’s tough to find the same kind of emotional notes that made the original film — the 2010 hit where Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) goes from a super villain who steals the moon to the loving father of three orphans — so enjoyable. It seems almost impossible to emotionally top adopting orphans.

That’s why the sequel leans more on the humor, especially with a much-expanded role for the jabbering, yellow, round assistants known as his Minions. These are the funniest yellow characters this side of “The Simpsons.” Not since the “Madagascar” movies — where the feisty penguins stole the show — has a group of supporting players been so much fun.