Lin-Manuel Miranda stars in animated musical Vivo, written and directed by The Croods’ Kirk DeMicco and co-directed by Brandon Jeffords. The feature opens in a fashion expected from the songwriter, as the sunny Havana plaza is brought to life through infectious rhythms and playful tunes. It’s here that viewers are introduced to the performers responsible for the festivities: an elderly gentleman named Andrés (Juan de Marcos González) and his music-loving kinkajou, Vivo (voiced by Miranda). However, the pair’s perfect life is ripped apart when tragedy strikes shortly after the former receives a letter from the love of his life and his sidekick must travel to Miami to deliver the song his friend wrote for her many years ago.
This Netflix film gets off to a phenomenal start. Through a combination of Miranda’s melodic genius and some creative animation, the first act beautifully establishes the emotional stakes at play. It’s heartwarming, yet tragic, and full of colourful personality. Then Vivo arrives in Florida, at which point the plot devolves into a derivative family flick, complete with irritating side characters and go-nowhere subplots. Gone is the touching bond between the key characters, only to be replaced by Gabi (newcomer Ynairaly Simo). She’s the quirky, purple-haired weird kid who relishes being different from her peers. She’s also rather annoying and has what could be the most obnoxious number ever given to a character. Despite Simo’s energetic performance, there’s simply not enough there for viewers to become invested or for the budding bond with her new companion to be maturely developed.
These missteps are rendered all the more agonising because there are moments of genuine sincerity and feel-good highs scattered throughout. A tedious chase sequence is followed by a soaring duet brimming with hope and optimism. The painfully unamusing and seemingly pointless encounters with a lovesick spoonbill and a noise-hating python are somewhat remedied by a powerful ballad. It’s Vivo’s story, an emotional journey told through love, loss and music, that’s the heart of this film, with the artist’s songs being the beat that keeps it alive. Everything else, however, detracts from the story being told.
For every wondrous high in this bright and uplifting musical adventure, there’s a bum note that spoils the melody – although the enjoyment is only temporarily hampered, as shortly after the tempo picks back up and the fun begins again.
Vivo is released on Netflix on 6th August 2021.
Watch the trailer for Vivo here: