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by Sine Thieme, a writer and mother of four who is new to South Africa and busy chronicling her experiences on her blog, Joburg Expat.

I admit it. I’m one of those moms who need to bring a pack of tissues when taking the kids to a movie. Even if it’s an animated movie. When my oldest son was about 2 years old and a friend had loaned us Lion King, I wanted to make sure it was going to be appropriate, so I watched it first on my own. Within minutes I was totally absorbed by the story and soon sat there bawling, making for a very surprised husband when he came home that night and saw me so distraught.

So you might take any movie advice of mine with a grain of salt, but I can highly recommend the movie Rio for your entire family, especially with kids in the 5-12 age range. It’s about a parrot named Blu who was taken from the rainforest as a baby and has lived all his life in Minnesota with his loving owner Linda. But his quiet and somewhat neurotic (because human-like) existence is suddenly interrupted when an ornithologist from Brazil brings the news that Blu is the last remaining male of his species and that they’ve found his female counterpart, Jewel. At first Blu and Linda are very skeptical at the prospect of traveling to Rio to bring the two together, but they are soon persuaded by the very charming Túlio to set out on the adventure of their lifetimes.

As you can imagine, things don’t go smoothly once they arrive in Rio. Jewel turns out to be very beautiful but not cooperative, and her only goal is to break free and return to the rainforest. Meanwhile, a group of nasty kidnappers – or rather birdnappers – is after the two rare macaws to sell them for a high price. A high-speed chase ensues when Blu and Jewel, with the help of some whacky friends they make along the way, try to escape the smugglers while Linda and Túlio set out to find them, complicated by the fact that Blu has never learned to fly. Of course, this being Rio de Janeiro, their adventure takes place during carnival, which makes for some additional excitement as well as a great soundtrack (though Blu, at some point when he’s very exasperated, confesses that “I hate Samba,” causing his new Brazilian friends to gasp in shock).

Blu is an endearing and funny character whom your kids will love for his courage as well as his weaknesses and fears. He reminds me of the giraffe Melman in Madagascar, while the movie itself has a similar feel to Up (another one of my must-bring-tissues experiences). While Up perhaps had a more captivating story line, it was also a bit scarier for the younger audience. Rio does feature bad guys – which story doesn’t – but most of them are also a bit simple-minded, like the robbers in Home Alone, so I think you can safely bring even your smaller kids to Rio to enjoy a feel-good and entertaining story.

Rated: G

Length: 1 hr 36 min

Starring: Anne Hathaway, Jesse Eisenberg, will.i.am, Jamie Foxx, George Lopez

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