Blu-ray
Recommended
4 stars
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Overall Grade
4 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Movie Itself
4.5 Stars
HD Video Quality
4.5 Stars
HD Audio Quality
4 Stars
Supplements
3 Stars
High-Def Extras
0 Stars
Bottom Line
Recommended

Chico & Rita

Street Date:
September 18th, 2012
Reviewed by:
Review Date: 1
September 12th, 2012
Movie Release Year:
2011
Studio:
New Video
Length:
94 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
Unrated
Release Country
United States

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

It isn't often that you stumble upon a movie like 'Chico & Rita.' An intoxicatingly gorgeous animated movie, which ends up being a touching love story of two people who just can't seem to get it right. The animation is simple yet the relationship between Chico and Rita is anything but. This is an animated film for adults. It's a film that embraces the complexities of love, life, and mistakes.

The movie opens on an old man walking down an alley. Even though the movie is animated, there is pain in his eyes. It's a somber opening and we soon learn why this man is feeling the way he is. He's haunted by what could've been.

It's the late 40s, the setting is Havana, Cuba. Chico (voiced by Eman Xor Oña) is a world-class piano player who can't help but get in his own way. It's a character flaw. We all have them. He's a nice guy. Deep down Chico wouldn't ever purposefully hurt anyone, yet his brash young demeanor is overrun by inherent selfishness. Rita (voiced by Limara Meneses) catches Chico's eye in a club. She's beautiful and sings like an angel. The two of them are destined to be together.

The movie passes through time rather fast as Chico and Rita soon find stardom in their respective fields of expertise. Their lives crisscross from time to time, but Chico can't seem to hold onto Rita. Rita's love for him can't overcome Chico's selfish mistakes though.


The movie expertly captures the liveliness of Cuba in the 40s and the growth of jazz. Notable historical musical figures have been inserted into the storyline as Chico crosses paths with Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, and Thelonius Monk just to name a few.

'Chico & Rita' never really plays by the rules. Like jazz it bounces around the lives of these two would-be lovers as they try to deal with their emotions. Rita is desperately in love with Chico and it doesn't seem like it's ever enough. Chico loves her back and can't seem to stop sabotaging himself.

From the beautifully simple animation to the down-to-earth humanistic tale of love and sorrow I was sucked into 'Chico & Rita.' It was nominated for an Academy Award in the animated features section. It's a gorgeous film both visually and emotionally.


The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats

This release is noted as being a Special Edition. It's a 3-disc edition that comes complete with a 25GB Blu-ray Disc, a DVD, and a CD of the movie's soundtrack. Inside there is also a booklet that contains a full-color excerpt of the graphic novel which basically storyboards of one of the early scenes in the movie that involves a car chase. The case is an oversized Blu-ray keepcase that resembles the thickness of some Blu-ray TV seasons.


The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

The animation here is something to behold. It reminded me of a blend of the animation in 'A Scanner Darkly' and the FX series 'Archer.' It's smooth, fluid, and beautifully two-dimensional. The line art is perfectly crisp and distinct in every scene. Color fills are bold and solid without the slightest hint of banding.

The colors of Havana really pop here. Rita's yellow dress all but leaps off the screen. There's a beautifully distinct water-color quality to the backgrounds here. Characters are very clean, but objects and backgrounds feature broad brush strokes with varying gradients of color. Chico's piano, for example, has a great wooden quality to it because of the light and dark brown strokes of color that appear so perfectly. The Cuban night sky features the same paintbrush effect as the glowing moon brightens up the dark blue sky.

You'd expect that if there was going to be any technical anomalies that banding would be an issue here, it isn't. As far as I could tell the movie was free of any sort of artifacting. It isn't a lushly detailed Pixar movie, but it holds its own. This is a great looking animated release.


The Audio: Rating the Sound

The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is just as great as the video presentation. This movie is full of the jazzy sounds of Cuban music that the mix doesn't disappoint in delivering those rat-a-tat-tat notes in full clarity. Music fills the soundfield, creating a like-you're-there environment.

Dialogue is clean throughout the movie. Sound effects, like the banging and screeching of metal during the car chase at the beginning is surprisingly forceful. A car plows through glass windows causing a crash of glass that sounds perfectly realistic complete with nice low-end support. LFE doesn't stop there, it thumps along to numerous songs that need a bass beat, low and resonant.

In a way this movie is all about sound so it's great that the spirit of the movie's audio is captured with such concise clarity as it is here. The track is technically proficient and will please even the most strident audiophile.


The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

  • Audio Commentary — The commentary is provided by directors Fernando Trueba and Javier Mariscal.They basically provide an overview of the movie and are a little hard to hear with their thick accents, but they do the whole commentary in English. The biggest problem here is they simply state what's going on in many of the scenes, instead of providing much insight into production.
  • Making of 'Chico & Rita' (SD, 28 min.) — This making-of focuses heavily on the animation for the film. In particular Trueba and Mariscal discuss using real actors for the movie. They filmed the movie beforehand with real actors acting out the storyboards which gave the animators a good basis for their work when it came time to animate the film. There's a reason this reminded me so much of 'A Scanner Darkly.' It isn't rotoscoped like that movie, but the animation follows closely along with the real actor's movements, facial expressions and such.
  • Trailer (HD, 2 min.) — The theatrical trailer is included.

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

There are no Blu-ray exclusives provided here.


Final Thoughts

What a great little animated film! Life, love, depression, regret, it's all here. The animation is as beautiful as any finely detailed CGI film. For those of you that are tired of the computer generated world of animated feature films, this will provide a nice respite. Even if you haven't heard of it, give 'Chico & Rita' a try. It's recommended.

Technical Specs

  • Blu-ray/DVD/CD Soundtrack Combo Pack
  • 3-Disc Set

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 1.85:1

Audio Formats

  • Spanish: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Spanish: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0

Subtitles/Captions

  • English and Spanish

Supplements

  • Audio commentary with acclaimed director Fernando Trueba
  • Making-of featurette
  • U.S. Trailer

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