Directed by: Tono Errando & Javier Mariscal & Fernando Trueba.
Written by: Ignacio Martínez de Pisón & Fernando Trueba.
Starring: Limara Meneses (Rita), Eman Xor Oña (Chico), Mario Guerra (Ramón), Lenny Mandel (Ron).
Animation will always been viewed by some people as just for children – but a movie like Chico and Rita, which is clearly aimed at adults, once again proves how shortsighted that view is. This is a charming movie that goes from pre-Castro Cuba to New York to Paris to Vegas, and back to Cuba again. This is a charming love story, and contains some great music.
The movie opens in present day Cuba, where Chico makes his living shining shoes. He goes home to his lonely apartment, and turns on the radio – and hears a song that he and Rita recorded way back in 1948, and he flashes back to that time. In 1948 Cuba, Chico was a cocky piano player at the heart of the Cuban jazz scene. He meets Rita at a club, and is immediately drawn to her – although she needs more convincing. They make a great team on stage – and in bed – but outside of that, they spend more time fighting than anything else. Chico is stubborn and unwilling to compromise, and Rita is already under contract to an unscrupulous manager who thinks he can make her a big star – and is right.
The animation is highly stylized and moves with effortless motion, perfectly capturing the music, which is the real star of this movie. The love story, while moving, is also pretty standard issue stuff – the rise and fall of brilliant musicians, whose egos and stubbornness – along with some racism – is ultimately what keeps them apart. We want Chico and Rita to simply get out of their own way, and find a way to make their relationship work, but the truth we know it’s unlikely.
The music really is wonderful – sensual and sexy, as is the movie itself, which doesn’t shy away from sex or nudity, although the movie is far from pornography. It’s one of the only animated films I can recall that I would actually call sexy. This is definitely one for adults, even though its animated.