Vivo Movie Review: A heartwarming musical adventure
Netflix's latest animation title is full of heart
Two minutes into Kirk DeMicco’s Vivo, you begin to get the earliest indications that you are in for a delightful, wholesome ride. Life in Havana, Cuba, couldn’t be better for Vivo, a singer-musician kinkajou (voiced by the talented Lin-Manuel Miranda) and his owner-best friend, the elderly Andrés (Juan de Marcos González). The two spend their days singing on the streets, and like Vivo says in the beginning, although they don’t speak a common language, their shared love for music seals their camaraderie. This beautiful bond is established effortlessly, accompanied, as it is, by a lovely number, One of a Kind.
Directed by: Kirk DeMicco
Starring: Lin-Manuel Miranda, Zoe Saldana, Juan de Marcos, Brian Tyree Henry, Michael Rooker
Streaming on: Netflix
Their pleasant life turns upside down when Andrés receives a letter from Marta Sandoval, Andrés’ former partner and unrequited love, requesting him to join her in Miami for her final performance. Vivo, who initially disapproves of the trip, soon relents after learning that it is Andrés’ final opportunity to share his feelings through a song he has written for Marta decades ago. A tragic event leaves a heartbroken Vivo, who vows to deliver Andrés’ song to Marta. He finds an unlikely companion in the spirited Gabi, Andrés’ grand niece, and the film follows their misadventures — ranging from escaping a green anaconda, getting caught in a freak rainstorm, and outpacing overenthusiastic girl scout troopers who plan to medically isolate Vivo.
The opening sequence is a colourful tribute to Cuban music and lifestyle, that is seldom represented in popular entertainment media. Like Coco, which painted a respectful and subliminal picture of Mexican traditions, and Luca, which celebrated the Italian way of life, Vivo too can be thought of as a love letter… to Cuba. The photorealistic visuals are vibrant and the landscape, magical. The visual flair, however, is only the cherry on the top. A story with a beating heart, tender characters, and an optimistic view of the world make Vivo more than a feel-good film. It’s a story of second chances with lead characters who have their share of regrets that they have to circumvent; these widely relatable themes make Vivo a thoroughly emotionally rewarding experience.
The screenplay is energetic and jumps from one caper to the next, raising the stakes without ever taking a breather. So, it can, occasionally, feel overwhelming, especially when the adventure becomes the focal point towards the end of the second act. While it does digress to an extent, the film gets back to the ground for a heart-rendering climax. It is, in a sense, a blueprint that most animated pictures stick to, and perhaps, it is all engineered to incite an emotional response from you. But when it’s as efficiently done as in Vivo, it’s not a bad thing at all.