Chico and Rita (Luma Films)
Unrated, but probably R for nudity, sexual content, violence, language and drug use.
Starring (voices of) Lenny Mandel and Limara Meneses, with music by Bebo Valdés.
Written by Fernando Trueba and Ignacio Martínez de Pisón.
Directed by Fernando Trueba, Javier Mariscal, Tono Errando.
The art of making animated films has certainly changed over the years and many movies are produced with computer animation. Foreign animated films have yet to completely grasp the trend, so most non-US animators still use hand-drawn technologies. Chico and Rita is a Spanish film (with English subtitles) about two Cuban musicians who fall in love and follow their dreams during the 1940s and 50s.
Chico (Lenny Mandel) is a struggling jazz piano player/composer in Havana who meets the beautiful Rita (Limara Meneses) one night and falls in love with her. He also falls in love with her voice, and despite a complicated one night stand, the two form a partnership to enter a musical competition, which they win. Their Cuban musical careers take off, but they are separated when a sleazy producer/manager steals Rita away to become a star in the United States. Chico eventually follows Rita to New York, where he pays his dues by playing in dives where jazz legends like Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Tito Fuentes and Thelonius Monk play.
As Chico and Rite follow their own paths to stardom, both are derailed by racism and legal troubles. Chico ends up deported back to Cuba just in time for Castro's revolution, and is stuck there for decades. Rita's fate is not known until the end of the film, when Chico gets a second chance and returns to the U.S. as a star.
Chico and Rita is a film very much like so many classic films from the 40s and 50s in which star-crossed lovers deal with fame. While the outcome might be predictable, Chico and Rita is a joy to the eyes and ears. The animation might not be as smooth as your garden variety Disney classic, but the artistry, color and design make the film beautiful. Incredible landscapes of old Havana, New York and Las Vegas transport you to another time as well.
Besides the great visuals, Chico and Rita is driven by the fantastic jazz music compositions and arrangements of Bebo Valdes, with interpretations of some of the most accomplished jazz artists in history.
A warning to parents. Chico and Rita has a few scenes of (animated) nudity and sex, along with plenty of language (subtitled) that is not appropriate for kids.