Thursday, April 24, 2014

Rio 2 Adoption Movie Review - Crosscultural Adoption, Reunification, and Merging Cultures

Blu and Jewel were, as far as they knew, the only two Spix’s Macaws left in the world. They paired and now have three young children. They rejoice in their love for each other, and they enjoy life, with Jewel sharing elements of her upbringing in the rainforest and Blu sharing elements of his domestic lifestyle. Then, Jewel finds out that her family is still alive in the rainforest. She, Blu, their children, and two friends take flight to reunite with Jewel’s family. Jewel is excited. Blu is nervous; will they accept him?

As this reunification is happening, evil antienvironmentalists try to destroy the rainforest, and a villainous cockatoo tries to extract revenge against Blu.

How Does This Relate to Adoption?

There are so many angles to view this film from.

Blu had thought that he and Jewel were alone. Now that she has family to reunify with, he questions his importance to her and wonders whether he still has a place in her life. He asks, “It wasn’t all bad, was it?”

Jewel is excited to reunify with her family and is especially elated for her father to meet her children. She tells Blu, “we need to connect our kids to our roots.”

Blu’s and Jewel’s children are excited for the trip.

Blu’s friends are cautious about the danger that Blu may be entering.

Jewel’s family and community are wonderfully happy to have her back, and enlist her in the life of the community.

Jewel’s father is delighted to see Jewel, pleased beyond measure to learn that he is a grandfather, and rather unimpressed by Blu.

Blu and Jewel were both (more or less) adopted by humans. Jewel’s family strongly distrusts humans. Jewel’s father is mortified that Blu actually likes humans. This film surprisingly touches on the interplay of crosscultural adoption and racism/prejudice. Blu is eventually accepted by his father-in-law, and his father-in-law does eventually see that not all humans are evil.

Powerful Moments

Jewel and her group find Jewel’s community – and her father. She wonders why no one ever found her. Her father tearfully explains, “I had you under my wing and you were gone. I’ve looked everywhere for you.” They express how they’ve missed each other. Her father says, “It’s OK now. Daddy has you.” They embrace. He praises who she has become, “My little girl, all grown up, so beautiful, just like your mother.” He finds out that he’s a grandfather and bursts into song, embracing all of his newfound family, except for Blu. The community throws a huge party to celebrate their return. Blu feels somewhat displaced, especially when a former boyfriend of Jewel’s seems to express interest in her.

Positive Elements

When Jewel goes to reunite with her family, she is not alone. She is accompanied by her children, her husband, and their friends. This sense of a shared journey reminds me of the documentary Closure. Adoption reunifications can be scary and emotionally-charged events. Having the support of those who know and love you means a lot.

Challenging Points

Now that Jewel and Blu have found the tribe of Spix’s Macaws, will they return to Blu’s home, or stay in Jewel’s childhood home. Jewel and Blu do not seem to easily agree on this point, and Jewel’s family pressures them to stay. It’s easy to see how Blu feels displaced. I wonder if Jewel ever felt similarly displaced while adjusting to life outside of the rainforest. Jewel’s father disapproves of the “city” aspects of Blu’s lifestyle and basically orders him to change. At one point, Blu expresses that he will never fit in and wonders if he should just go home. Jewel does not understand him. She says that “maybe this is home,” and criticizes him for thinking only of himself.  At the same time, when Jewel’s family suggests that she leaves Blu, she affirms, “Blu is my family and I’m not leaving him behind.”
The issues of mixed emotions regarding reunification could be confusing to the young children this film is geared towards.

Weak Points

Some small, cute animals are eaten to humorous effect. The film is set in the rainforest, so it does make sense, but little kids might cry.


Rio 2 is a mildly-entertaining film that does seem likely to please young viewers, maybe ages 5-9. It’s surprising that such a kid flick has such wide applicability to issues of adoption reunification, but it does. It could open the way for some worthwhile conversations.

Questions for Discussion

If your family participates in reunification, how do you imagine blending the two cultures? How do you balance a sense of belonging between the two families?

When you think of reunification, which character do you most strongly relate with? How would you have felt in their position?

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