We've all been taken by a pretty smile once or twice. Chico & Rita, the animated Spanish-language romance/jazz flick that lost out to Rango at this year's Oscars, isn't the deepest movie around—but it sure is damned seductive. Set primarily in a gorgeously illustrated Havana, Cuba (think of the Beatles' Yellow Submarine crossed with comic artist Ben Katchtor's scrawled New York cityscapes), the movie tells a pretty archetypal boy-meets/loses/stalks-girl storyline via flashbacks and chase scenes. And while there's an ambiguity to the relationship between the titular musicians that's refreshing for cartoons—it's also one of the few non-Bashki animated features to feature tits, weed, jazz, giant cars and lots of cursing—Chico & Rita hurries audiences through what could be great teaching moments in bullet-point fashion. Thin on dialogue but rich with great Cuban and American jazz, Chico & Rita is largely spectacle. But where its characters seem a little flat and incomplete (Chico's trusted friend and manager Ramón being an exception), the cities around them are alive and breathtaking. I'll take that over Rango (or Avatar, for that matter) any day.
- Critic's Score: B
- Watch the trailer