The Spanish film Chico and Rita (2010) was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature before losing out to Rango (2011). It is always nice to see a film made by someone outside of the Disney/Pixar/Dreamworks trinity get some kind of recognition at the big award ceremonies, so I thought I would take a look.
A vast majority of the film takes place as an extended flashback, beginning in Cuba in 1948. Chico is a muso in his prime, who comes to know and love Rita. Theirs is a topsy turvy relationship that spans a fair bit of time and space, travelling to the States, Paris and more. They both make mistakes and it is nice that their love is not too neat and tidy nor ‘hollywood’ in its presentation. Because in real life, love is rarely that way. There are a couple of surreally well realised moments in this romance. When Chico and Rita make music the morning after they first make love is one such moment which definitely springs to mind. Aside from the dominant love story, music (especially Cuban), is the predominant focus of the film. Music is used both in the background and the foreground of the action onscreen. In its establishment, the narrative, and film more broadly goes for a very old fashioned filmmaking aesthetic. The comedic chops and characterisations hark back to a 30s musical or melodrama. In addition to this, the film also takes the quite interesting approach of mingling fact and fiction by incorporating real life people and events into the film.
The film looks absolutely amazing, with a really unique visual approach. The animation has really noticeable, black outlines which boldly evoke classical animation and also a sense of the time where the events are set. This style is a really fantastic way to approximate life, more so than 3D animation and perhaps even the more traditional cell shaded approach. Whilst the animation looked incredible, when it came to the motion of the animation there were some issues. The faces were not always adept enough at conveying all important emotions while some of the movement of the characters was a little clunky. But overall, the visual splendour of the film is its chief selling point.
Perhaps not as enchanting as it could have been, Chico and Rita is still worth spending the time on. The film looks phenomenal and is better at evoking a real sense of time and place than most any other animated flick I can recall.In fact unfortunately, taking away the visual approach, I perhaps wanted to like the film a little more than I actually did in the end. Having said that, the ending of the film is a cracking one, actually bringing a conclusion to the proceedings that is a little more satisfying than the overall feel of what has come beforehand.
Verdict: Stubby of Reschs