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Chico & Rita

Posted by martinteller on May 9, 2013

An elderly Chico (Eman Xor Oña) reflects back to 1948 Havana.  As an up-and-coming piano player in the hot nightclub scene, he sees a lovely and talented singer named Rita (Limara Meneses).  The two commence a stormy relationship, win a contest, and see their careers rising… and going on separate paths.

Not much of a plot summary, but there isn’t a whole lot to the story.  It’s very rote and predictable, kind of a less developed version of a Cuban New York, New York.  There’s just nothing much of interest here.  The romance never drew me in, the rags-to-riches elements were uninspired, the characters aren’t compelling.  Chico and Rita are both so cookie-cutter that I couldn’t care what happened to them.  Ramón (Mario Guerra), Chico’s friend/manager, has more personality.

The soundtrack is very nice, but I can’t say I was in love with it or anything.  It’s a fine selection of period (and period-sounding) jazz, torch songs, and Afro-Cuban music.  But none of the songs really got to me… it’s background music.  Even within the movie, no one is convincingly passionate about it.  It mostly just seems like a job to them.

And then there’s the animation.  While it’s a lovely, stripped-down art style, in motion it loses something.  There’s a floaty, disconnected, too-smooth feel to it that works against the roughness of the art.  Several shots made it seem too computerized.  It even felt like it would work better as a series of still frames, in the style of La Jetée.  Or live action.  The animation is beneficial in that it eases the period recreation (and globe-trotting), allows for the inclusion of famous figures without protests of “That guy doesn’t look anything like Tito Puente!” and permits a beautifully stylized dream sequence that was one of my favorite moments in the film.  But watching a few minutes of the behind-the-scenes footage and seeing the real actors, I instantly felt more connected to them than I did to their animated counterparts.  Perhaps seeing real humans in these roles would have breathed a little life into these poorly-drawn (figuratively, not literally) characters.

Only in the final minutes does the film convey any convincing poignancy.  Too little, and too late.  Rating: Poor (58)


2 Responses to “Chico & Rita”

  1. stevekimes said

    I didn’t think it was poor, but it didn’t stir me, either. The animation style and the smooth music did a lot for giving me a positive feel, but I never really connected to the characters.

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