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‘Rio 2’ bird-watcher’s guide

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It’s always mildly amusing to see a star voicing an animated character when his or her last couple of credits would have you diving for the remote if your kindergartner stumbled across them on Netflix. Kid stuff alternating with R-rated craziness – is there any better reminder that these folks are well, actors? The showy cast helping the birds and other ’toons of “Rio 2” take flight is a prime example. Here’s our handy field guide to their colorful flock, from genre-characteristic behaviors (i.e. other all-audiences projects they’ve done) to notes on just how far they range (the not-so-family-friendly credits).

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Jessis Eisenbergis — er, we mean Jesse Eisenberg


Species: Ultra-rare blue macaw (or Cyanopsitta spixii, to legit ornithologists)

Habitat: Tropically challenged Moose Lake, Minnesota, originally — then Rio, and now the Amazon, where the gang learns that more blue macaws reside. (OK, so maybe they’re a teeny bit less rare than we thought.)

Voice: Nebbishy, but somehow able to get by opposite Anne Hathaway and others belting it out in a cartoon sambafest. (“Sing it, Lionel.”) And he did have a ukulele number in the 2007 indie comedy “The Living Wake.”

Characteristic behavior: Now that “Man of Steel” has given a new generation of kids their Superman, Eisenberg is prepping to give them their Lex Luthor in next year’s sequel.

Range: Gruesomely offed the undead in “Zombieland” — with a juvenile sense of humor, but still.

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Anne Hathaway

Species: Blu’s macaw mate

Voice: Soaring enough to earn her that Oscar for “Les Miserables.”

Characteristic behavior: Recording the tiara trifecta of “The Princess Diaries,” “Ella Enchanted,” and her role as the White Queen in Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland.” Plus: showing us what big kung-fu Little Red Riding Hood has in “Hoodwinked.”

Range: Getting graphically cozy with Jake Gyllenhaal in “Brokeback Mountain” (sort of) and “Love & Other Drugs,” and playing a gangsta-teasing wannabe in the little-seen “Havoc.”


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Jemaine Clement

Species: Evil cockatoo.

Voice: Expertly honed as part of New Zealand’s fourth most popular guitar-based digi-bongo a cappella-rap-funk-comedy folk duo — Flight of the Conchords, to the uninitiated.

Characteristic behavior: Currently cooling his heels in “Muppets Most Wanted” as Kermit’s fellow Siberian gulag prisoner.

Range: Flight of the Conchords’ eponymous HBO series, a showcase for “Sugalumps” and other tunes a bit racier than, say, Nigel singing, “I poop on people and I blame it on seagulls.”

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Jamie Foxx

Species: Good-times yellow canary in a bottle-cap hat.

Voice: Like a regular “Ray” of sunshine.

Characteristic behavior: Playing comic-book supervillain Electro in next month’s “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” and later this year, playing Daddy Warbucks — make that “Benjamin Stacks” — in the revamped “Annie” opposite Quvenzhané Wallis (“Beasts of the Southern Wild”).

Range: The ‘D’ may have been silent — but yikes, that bloody “Django Unchained” gunplay and edgy Tarantino dialogue sure weren’t.

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Species: Red-crested cardinal with funkadelic flair.

Voice: Auto-Tuned.

Characteristic behavior: Voicing hippo stud Moto Moto, the Barry White of the animal kingdom, in “Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa.”

Range: Probably safer to catch one of his Black Eyed Peas gigs in Cleveland than one of his recurring gigs on “Family Guy”-
spinoff “The Cleveland Show.”

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Bruno Mars

Species: Blue macawsanova. (Look out, Blu — he’s Jewel’s “childhood friend.”)

Voice: Super Bowl halftime-caliber.

Characteristic behavior: Making an appearance in Nicolas Cage’s “Honeymoon in Vegas” — at age 6! — as Little Elvis.


Range: Chart-topper “Locked Out of Heaven” is a study in got-the-hots metaphors made simple. (But sooo catchy.)

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Rita Moreno

Species: Deja-blue macaw. (She’s Jewel’s brassy aunt.)

Voice: It’s been ringing out since “West Side Story,” from “America” to South America.

Characteristic behavior: Hey — do we really need to remind you? 1970s educational television staple “The Electric Company,” of course. A couple of decades later, she was also the cartoon voice of geography-tutoring Carmen Sandiego.

Range: Imparting a little “Carnal Knowledge” to Jack Nicholson back in ’71.

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Linda and Tulio

Leslie Mann and Rodrigo Santoro

Species: Bird lovers.

Voice: Well, the movie’s singing is for the birds, really.

Characteristic behavior: She just did voice work for “Mr. Peabody & Sherman”; he’s part of the ensemble in the upcoming soccer biopic “Pele,” potential required viewing for youth soccer players everywhere.

Range: She’s prone to displays of marital TMI. (See “Knocked Up,” “This Is 40.”) He’s twice let his freak flag — um, battle standard — fly as glam-rocking god-king Xerxes in the “300” version of Greek history. Or does that qualify as educational programming, too?

Tom Russo can be reached at trusso2222@gmail.com.