Release Date: February 10, 2012 (NY)
Studio: Luma Films (GKIDS)
Director: Fernando Trueba, Tono Errando, Javier Mariscal
Screenwriter: Ignacio Martínez de Pisón, Fernando Trueba
Starring: Mario Guerra, Limara Meneses, Eman Xor Oña
MPAA Rating: Not Available
Official Website: ChicoandRita.com
You’d think that my degree in Cultural Studies would compel me to embark on much more culturally diverse cinematic excursions. But no, I’ve allowed myself fall into the dull drums of seeing films that keep me within my comfort zone, almost strictly.
The Hunger Games was the film my wife and I went to see last Friday night, but changed our minds when the line for the said film ran out into the parking lot. We decided it wasn’t worth waiting in line to see a movie in which the theater would be filled with teenagers who’s love for the story will dictate their giddy, teenaged reactions – in turn, annoying us.
So off it was to our favorite independent movie theater where we saw Chico and Rita, an animated Spanish film where two star-crossed lovers embark on an adventure in romance, sex, fame, and Latin pizzazz culture. Its Oscar nomination speaks towards the attraction movie goers have for the exotic culture of independent film making more than towards the film’s quality, even though Chico and Rita is one of the more interesting animated films I’ve seen from a visual standpoint.
Think back to when you were a child, (Well, if you 30 years old like me.) Remember when animated films REALLY started utilizing computer animation – there was always this obvious disconnect from the regular drawn characters, juxtaposed by the fully CGI animated parts of the film. The same thing happens here, although the entire film is completely using CGI technology, it shouts out to the days of old when hand drawn animation was the way of the future.
the film takes place shortly after World War II, displaying the aftermath and feelings of the people. Chico, a gifted piano player whose name and skills are known throughout the area, runs into night club singer, Rita, who has one of the most beautiful Latin singing voices I’ve ever heard. They fall instantly in love. With feelings being mutual, the two, along with some friends, go on an intense journey filled with gorgeous music, tangled up in deceit, cheating, and lies.
The story isn’t one to get excited about. In fact, if this were a live action film, I probably would have fallen asleep somewhere in the middle. But the unique animation and musical quality of the film kept my attention all throughout its duration. Chico is a jerk who continually plays mind games with Rita, going in and out of her life. Rita, however, doesn’t help her situation by always opening herself up to him each and every time. Not until six decades later does Chico realize the folly in his behavior, and apologizes to Rita…where she still lets him back into her life, despite all he’d done in the past. It’s a story that will frustrate you as you watch both characters make poor choices and never learn from their mistakes.
I realized quite quickly that this wasn’t going to be a substantially literary film, but where it lacks in writing quality, it makes up for in its musicality. Cuban jazz and Rumba dancing combined with the mid 1940′s American pop-culture makes for easy listening and a fun experience. You’ll be dancing in your seat and impatiently waiting for the next musical number to pop up!
There were a lot of missed opportunities with this film; each character remains strictly drawn characters, never transcending into something that transforms them into more than just sketches. It’s apparent lack of an original script, with trite dialog makes the story very difficult to enjoy by itself. However, that being said, this will definitely be going on my “to own on DVD” list simply because it IS a unique film whose nostalgic animation and musical fervor is enticing enough to compel me to come back and enjoy the experience again again and again.