“Xico’s Journey” is a cheerful, colorfully-animated and culturally-aware Mexican cartoon about legend and myth and two kids and a dog who want to save their picturesque village from fracking.
Although it scores points for tapping into Mexican heritage and myth and takes on a reckless, people-and-planet-killing energy industry practice, an indifferent script does it no favors.
It’s one of those cartoons where a lot of characters cackle, long and hard, of collapse into guffaws or in the villain’s case, tosses back his head in maniacal, evil laughter. And viewers, young and old, wonder what the heck it is that they’re laughing at as there aren’t any funny lines or even particularly funny situations.
The village of San Jaime de las Jaibas earned its name because in prehistoric times, there were crabs there. Now it is a quaint, cute and sleepy town sitting at the foot of the mountain people like Nana Petra call “mother.”
Copi, who was raised by her grandmother after her parents died, and her pal
Gus frolic in its streets and stir up a little trouble as they do, chased all the time by her dog Xico (“HEE-co”).
But greedy Mr. Frevler, who likes his laughs maniacal, and his board of directors see that mountain as “a literal gold mine!” All the minerals they can extract from it, if only they can con the mayor, take over the town and do what they like to the land, aquifer and people.
The mayor preaches “progress” and “jobs,” but a company official makes a quick note of the fine print, the “worst that can happen” when you pump “methanol, benzene, ethylbenzene and toluene” into the ground.
Careful. Some states, like N.C., have made it illegal to report on the poisons frackers pump into aquifers.
Nana Petra is outraged, starts muttering about a legend, the need to “reunite the three stones” and hinting that Copi’s mom might be where those three stones have to be reunited — “in the heart of the mountain.”
Darned if Copi, Gus and little Xico don’t take off to see what’s what before Nana Petra can convince creaky Don Viejo and another elder to undertake the quest.
The kids encounter creatures of Mexican myth and folklore, and wouldn’t you know it? Her dog starts talking. No matter what language you watch this in, turn the subtitles on. Otherwise, how’ll you know how to spell the breed Xico is when he says it out loud?
“Xoloitzcuintle.” Say it with me!
A rhyming rabbit, a prankster possum, a scorpion, a condor and Mexican Pronghorn play their parts as the “journey” progresses and the mystery unravels.
The animation, by Mexican Anima animation house, is a couple steps below the top Hollywood operations, but gives us quality backgrounds, distinct characters and plenty of Aztec iconography. Not bad.
The messaging — “Do you think rich people will consider us before they go and destroy everything?” — is spot on.
A little script doctoring and “Xico’s Journey” could have been a keeper, a movie with laughing characters who have something to laugh at.
MPA Rating: TV-Y7
Credits: Directed by Eric D. Cabello Díaz, script by Enrique Renteria. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:27