Director: Kirk DeMicco
Co-director: Brandon Jeffords
Starring: Lin-Manuel Miranda, Zoe Saldaña, Juan de Marcos, Brian Tyree Henry, Michael Rooker, Nicole Buyer, introducing Ynairaly Simo and Gloria Estefan
Run time: 1h 35min
Sony Animation’s third Netflix exclusive film, after the superb The Mitchell’s vs The Machines and the delightful Wish Dragon, is also their first musical adventure. And with Vivo, they’ll have their work cut out to make a better one.
In Havana, Cuba, musician Andrés (Juan de Marcos) entertains the crowds by performing songs with his one-of-a-kind pet, Vivo (Lin-Manuel Miranda). Vivo’s an unusual tropical rainforest mammal called a Kinkajou (kind of a cross between a raccoon and a monkey) that Andrés took under his wing a few years before. Where we get to listen to Miranda’s voice, the characters in the film hear a cute chirruping sound instead.
When Latin American singing superstar and Andrés’s former partner, Marta Sandoval (Gloria Estefan), announces her farewell concert in Miami, she invites her old friend to perform with her with the hope of reconnecting. However, when tragedy strikes, Vivo must deliver a message to Marta. But this isn’t just any message. It’s a love song that Andrés wrote for her many years ago, but didn’t have the courage to play to her. To ensure the melody makes its way to Marta, Vivo teams up with quirky tween Gabi (Ynairaly Simo). She’s navigating her own journey of grief and dealing with the fallout caused by the death of a parent. The dynamic duo race against time across the dangerous Everglades of Florida to make sure Vivo fulfills his owner’s wishes.
Vivo opens with a kaleidoscopically colourful charm and a foot-tapping Latino musical number that kicks things off in style. The mighty Oscar-winning cinematographer Roger Deakins was a visual consultant and his influence is clear to see throughout Vivo’s journey. Original songs by Lin-Manuel Miranda revolve around his high-energy mix of rap and musical theatre and they’re all magnificent. Sing-a-long choruses, power ballads, sassy solos and harmoniously happy group songs are showcased in a wonderfully atmospheric celebration of life and love.
It’s funny too, with a witty script brought to life by a dynamic vocal ensemble. Ynairaly Simo’s film debut is incredibly accomplished for someone so young. At 13, she holds her own against the more experienced cast in a performance beyond her years. Juan de Marcos brings an endearing charm whilst Gloria Estefan’s voice is as strong as ever and Michael Rooker’s gravelly hiss slithers into the screen as a peace-loving python.
The subject of death is handled with sensitivity and tact and whilst it might not be as emotionally deep as we’ve seen from Sony’s animation cousins over at Pixar, loss and acceptance are explored in a way that is accessible to all ages. Its message is an important one about love, missed opportunities and trying to do the right thing even if that’s difficult to accept.
Yes, it might be a little predictable and some of the secondary storylines fail to hit the mark, but Vivo is a beautiful slice of animated musical theatre. Influenced by Coco, The Greatest Showman and, of course, Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Midas touch is still hitting all the right notes.
Vivo will sing into select UK cinemas from 30th July and on Netflix on 6th August 2021