Review: Harmonious 'Vivo' crackles with vibrant if familiar musical attitude
Courtesy of Netflix
The Lin-Manuel Miranda train is showing no signs of slowing down in his latest animated musical sensation: the vibrant, lyrically smooth “Vivo.” Fans still hooked from last summer’s surprise drop of “Hamilton” on Disney+ to this year’s “In The Heights” (not to mention the forthcoming “Encanto” and “Tick, Tick...Boom!”) will devour “Vivo,” the story of a cute and cuddly kinkajou from Cuba voiced by Miranda, for the harmless afternoon diversion it is. The pic, directed by Kirk DeMicco and co-written by “In The Heights” collaborator Quiara Alegria Hudes, hits all the sweet spots in the Miranda canon, and swells with vibrant colors, an unwavering commitment to traditional values, catchy tunes, and eye popping animation. Sony Pictures Animation continues to make the case why they should be prime opposition to Pixar.
As Vivo, Miranda brings his signature voice talents to the lead character, a talking, singing kinkajou caught in the middle of a decades-in-the-making romantic courtship. He’s tasked with delivering a ballad cross country from Cuba to Miami in the hopes of rekindling two lovers, mainly his owner and singing companion, Andres (Juan de Marcos Gonzalez) and Marta (Gloria Estefan), Andres former flame who he wrote and performed with long before Vivo came into the picture. Seeing as Vivo is, well, an animal, he’ll require the assistance of Gabi (newcomer Ynairaly Simo - bubbly as ever), Andres purple-haired niece who speaks her truth and commandingly sing a few tunes.
It’s a familiar pairing at first: she’s thinking outside the box and Vivo is trying to understand what’s in the box, but eventually “Vivo” finds its rhythm, though it can’t resist taking a detour into the jungle with a slippery snake voiced by Micheal Rooker, a chase sequence by a squad of eco-woke girl scouts, and a pair of love struck pelicans voiced by Brian Tyree Henry and Nicole Byer. Not all of the songs Miranda cookes up are destined to be jukebox anthems, but children and adults alike will find themselves enamoured with the glossy animated visuals, proving Miranda’s style and free flowing attitude translates to any medium without getting lost in translation.
And the animation really shines in “Vivo,” along with the harmonious melodies which blend exceptionally under the neon-coated Miami landscape the animators design. Instinctively, “Vivo” shows that, even when trying to milk a prime talent like Miranda for every box office or subscriber dollar he’s worth, artistic and creative integrity always wins the day. Some questionable subplots aside, “Vivo” remains true to itself and brings together a variety of diverse talents (young and old) to tell a beautiful love story steeped in friendship, identity and music that isn’t afraid of bouncing to the beat of its own drum.
VIVO debuts on Netflix Friday, August 7th