Film Review: Vivo

DIRECTED BY

Kirk DeMicco

STARRING

Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ynairaly Simo, Zoe Saldana, Juan de Marcos González, Michael Rooker, Brian Tyree Henry, Nicole Byer, Gloria Estefan, Leslie David Baker, Katie Lowes, Olivia Trujillo and Lidya Jewett

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SYNOPSIS

Vivo, Sony Pictures Animation’s first-ever musical adventure featuring all-new original songs from Lin-Manuel Miranda, will take audiences on an epic adventure to gorgeous and vibrant locations never before seen in animation.

From Netflix and Sony Pictures Animation comes an animated musical adventure that follows Vivo, a musically gifted kinkajou (aka a rainforest “honey bear”) as he embarks on the adventure of a lifetime to deliver a song to his cherished owner’s long-lost love.

Much like The Mitchells vs The Machines earlier in the year, Sony Pictures Animation’s latest offering Vivo is the latest to land on Netflix due to the COVID-19 pandemic hindering its cinematic release. Set in Havana, Cuba, we follow Vivo, a one-of-a-kind kinkajou (a rainforest honey-bear) who spends his days playing music to the crowds in the lively Havana square with his beloved owner Andrés. One day, Andrés receives a letter from his long-lost love Marta Sandoval, a famous singer, who invites him to join her at her farewell concert in Miami, Florida. With the hope of reconnecting, it’s up to Vivo to deliver a message that Andrés never had the courage to do: a love letter to Marta that he wrote a long time ago in song form. In order to get to Miami, Vivo will need to acquire the help of Andrés’ niece Gabi and get to the Marta’s final show at the Mambo Cabana.

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Vivo makes an immediate impression with its opening sequence and catchy musical number, capturing Havana with bright colours and vibrant animation, providing us background into how Vivo met Andrés and became a well-known musical duo in the community. While there’s some lovely 3D animation on display, it’s the use of 2D animation that struck a chord with me in how they were presented here and since the 2D is used so sparingly, that somehow made it more effective. Having a credit in composing the score alongside his frequent collaborator Alex Lacamoire, as well as writing the songs, Lin-Manuel Miranda provides a few catchy tunes throughout the film, as well as providing the voice for the little kinkajou, particularly the opening number as well as the love song that the film is about. What I really liked about the story however is it’s handling on the friendship between Vivo and Andrés, with Vivo going on this mission in order to honour his friend and help deliver a message that he can’t say in person. The animation for Vivo’s frantic movements are well captured and I was thoroughly entertained by Lin-Manuel Miranda’s well-matched energetic performance as the character. Newcomer Ynairaly Simo also gives a great vocal performance as young teenager Gabi, who understands Vivo’s quest and looks to help him deliver the message in a way that could provide her some of her own closure.

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While the film has a bright start, it does kind of start to simmer when we get to the middle act, particularly when the characters enter the swampland terrain. It feels more like the film is stalling for time in order to justify its runtime of over an hour and a half, and there’s a sub-plot of Vivo and Gabi being ‘hunted’ down by the well-meaning but over-reactionary scout troopers that felt slightly too ridiculous for me, but then again I’m not the target audience for the film. There’s one particular musical number that I wasn’t too keen on, but it is infectiously catchy in an irritating sort of way. While the odd-couple pairing of Vivo and Gabi does have a nice resolution, there was a few times at the start where I thought it could be jarring. While the rest of the ensemble do well, no one really gets allowed to shine outside of Juan de Marcos González and Gloria Estefan.

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VERDICT

Vivo is a cute, colourful and vibrant animated film that certainly pulls the heartstrings with its story on friendship and it will keep you tapping your feet with its musical numbers.

★★★½