Bottom Line: Chico & Rita is sensational.
Directed by: Fernando Trueba, Javier Mariscal, Tono Errando
Featuring the Voices of: Eman Xor Oña, Limara Meneses
Chico & Rita is the beautiful baby born of Casablanca and The Jazz Singer, with Cuban flavor surrounding its virtuous music and animation. Our story, set against 1948, narrates the blooming careers of the two titular musicians from Central America, the former a serenading pianist, the latter a singer with an irresistible voice. Their longing for each other bonds them together, as they perform in the largest American cities, but the journey they take as a travelling duo begins to tear them apart and plunge both of them into emotional distress.
What makes the film so grandiose is the deeply sensuous atmosphere created by the applauding, dreamlike glow through which the music is viewed. It’s not the kind I would download on my iPod prior to viewing Chico & Rita, but this unique display may be just enough to pique my interest. Now and then, I would close my eyes and let the jazz create iridescent images in my mind. Only upon opening my eyes again did I find the film’s own visuals providing even more engrossing interpretations. The story garners extra love for how it so gorgeously assesses the endless warmth, and how that eventually edges over into a rather frozen feeling. During the former half of the film, we begin warming up with the characters, something rare for an animated movie. Their travels are not escalated by fame, but by desire. During the latter half of the film, Rita uses her makeup to write heartbreaking messages to Chico on the bathroom mirror. There is such an overwhelming amount of character development in the former half, you can almost smell the pungent streaks of lipstick. The most unbearable heartbreak is when the entire experience is over.
NOTE: The film is animated, and it is wonderful, but so are TV’s The Simpsons and even South Park. Although the film has not been rated by the MPAA, it contains enough nudity, drinking, swearing, and prejudicial commentary to earn it a high PG-13 or a low R. Whyever Walt Disney Pictures would be the one to willingly distribute such a coarse film throughout its native country (Spain), is beyond me.