Director: Kirk DeMicco
Written by: Kirk DeMicco & Quiara Alegria Hudes
Starring: Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ynairaly Simo, Juan de Marcos González, Brian Tyree Henry and Gloria Estefan
2021 is turning into a pretty great year for Lin-Manuel Miranda. The film adaptation of his first musical, In The Heights, was finally released to great acclaim. Later in the year his directorial debut, tick, tick, Boom!, will be released on Netflix. He’s also written the music for the upcoming Disney animated film, Encanto. To top it all off, he stars in and wrote eleven songs for Vivo the new animated film from Sony Pictures Animation. After watching Vivo it’s further confirmation that everything Miranda touches, including the excellent Moana and Hamilton, turns out great.
Vivo, voiced by Miranda, is kinkajou, also known as a honey bear, an animal usually found in tropical rainforests. After stowing away in a box, he ends up in Cuba and befriends a local street performer, Andrés Hernández. A letter arrives for Andrés from an old friend, Marta Sandoval, asking him to join her in his final concert in Miami. Just after she left Cuba, Andrés wrote her a song. Vivo makes it his mission that nothing will stop him from delivering the song to Marta.
The animation is simply stunning. Sony Pictures Animation has been really knocking it out of the park lately with Into the Spider-Verse, The Mitchells vs. the Machines, and the Hotel Transylvania series. Vivo looks and feels like a Pixar film. It deals with more serious themes of death, lost love, and parental relationships, with a fun and engaging tone. The animation is great and rivals Pixar’s high quality. To be honest the story, characters, and humour are better than most of Pixar’s more recent outings. If Vivo is anything to go by, then Pixar or Disney are no longer the only power houses of western animated family films.
There are moments of Vivo that are more magical realism with bright neon lights and dream-like sequences. They are beautiful to watch. There are some excellent scene transitions, and the characters look great with a unique art-style that really suits the story being told.
Much like previous films that feature music from Lin-Manuel Miranda, most of the songs in Vivo are great, fun, and catchy. It will make repeat viewings with children a lot easier. There is one song, early on, that is obnoxious, but the character singing it at that point of the film is grating as well. As the film progresses the character becomes more likable and understandable, so when they revisit the song later, it works better. The greatness of the songs also completely overshadows the very obvious plot. From almost the plot starts moving you will be able to guess all of the major beats. There are no surprises here, but great songs and interesting characters makes the simple plot feel more vibrant.
Vivo is a great family animated film, that’s currently available on Netflix. It’s engaging and captivating and the entire film, which is only just over 80 minutes once you cut out the credits, flies by in what seems like no time at all. There isn’t a dull moment to be found.