Saturday, March 10, 2012

Chico & Rita: Grade B


Chico & Rita (2010)

Limara Meneses, Eman Xor Oña; Directors Fernando Trueba, Javier Mariscal, Tono Errando. (Spanish; subtitled).

This low-budget animation is the story of a Cuban pianist in 1948 who plays jazz in clubs and dreams of making it big. He meets Rita, a club singer with an extraordinary voice and convinces her to join the band. It works for a while, but Chico cannot commit and Rita becomes jealous and finally a fancy rich guy “discovers” Rita and whisks her off to New York and the fast lane. Chico pursues her but by this time she is a star and living large. The decades roll on. The structure of the story is reminiscent of “Remains of the Day.”

The characters are not well developed emotionally, so the romantic story is only sweet and affecting. The animation is old-fashioned, hand-drawn, simple and colorful, with lots of flat panels of saturated color, no textures or rounding, making it look like an artsy graphic novel (comic book). The sets and scenery are drawn in loving detail, especially those of prerevolutionary Havana.

The music is good, but not what I expected. I was waiting for hard latin jazz, maybe meringue, salsa, Tito Puente, Miami-style blaring trumpets, etc., but instead it was mostly ballads with hardly a pulse, pleasant enough but disappointing.

Oddly, the end-credits reveal that there were at least a dozen animation companies, from all over the world, involved in the production of this feature. I can’t imagine why that would be, but it does explain why the animation is so variable. For example, the main characters’ skin color kept changing . In the beginning, Rita is lightly tanned, while Chico is chocolate, but later, the reverse is true. Maybe that was on purpose, but I doubt it. On the upside, there is one brief dream sequence, maybe three minutes long, that is truly spectacular and mind-blowingly creative, unlike anything else in the movie. I have to wonder why that team was not given more input; it would have made an astonishing movie. Instead, this animated story is more charming than spectacular, and for that, worth seeing.

No comments:

Post a Comment