August 6th, 2021
STARRING: LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA, YNAIRALY SIMO, ZOE SALDANA, GLORIA ESTEFAN
DIRECTED BY: KIRK DIMICCO, BRANDON JEFFORDS
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 2 STARS (Out of 4)
In the wildly successful career of Lin Manuel, I guess he can afford to have a few misses here and there. His newest venture in the animated circles, Vivo– misses by not that much, where it begins is as a charming and vibrant film, but quickly loses steam with every mark it hits along the way. It’s about a kinkajou monkey named Vivo (voiced by Miranda), embarking on a journey with a purple haired girl named Gabi (Ynairly Simo), with hopes to deliver a new song to Vivo’s former owners lost love. It’s a standard animated narrative, where a kid and an animal with a personality, go on an adventure, with bright colors filling the screen, but Vivo ultimately fails to make us laugh, sing, or excite us, squandering all of it’s well intentioned potential.
The opening number of Vivo is excellent, the setting is Cuba, where we are introduced to Andres (Juan de Marcos Gonzalez) and Vivo on the plaza, wowing us with delightful music, set to the rhymes of Miranda. The two characters relate in their passion for music and when Vivo is not singing, he squeaks just like any other monkey. The two of them live a happy life, playing great tunes for the people that gather around, and finding comfort in their friendship that started when Vivo was a baby. Andres then receives a letter in the mail from Marta (Gloria Estefan), his former music partner, who went on to have a big successful music career, and the love that got away. Now Marta has invited Andres to play with her for one last show, but it’s not meant to be, and Andres passes away. Now it’s up to Vivo, along with the help of Andres’ niece Gabi, traveling by bike, bus, and boat from Cuba to Miami to deliver that song.
The writing credits belong to co-director Kirk DiMicco, Quiara Alegria Hudes, and Peter Barsocchini, but the biggest anticipation are the songs from Lin-Manuel Miranda, which have their share of his standard rhythm and rhyming. What it doesn’t have, however, is a song that stands out, and the songs that you might remember are for the wrong reasons. There’s an emphatic anthem song for little Gabi called “My Own Drum”, which I was sick of after one verse. Even the narrative Mcguffin song, driving the entire reason for Gabi and Vivo to venture down back water swamps, facing dangerous storms and giant snakes, all left me incredibly disappointed. Unlike In the Heights, there’s not a single song that I left humming with this one.
The journey itself is fine. Gabi is an adventurous and fun child, being herself with purple hair, colorful glasses, friendship bracelets all over her arm, and not too keen on listening to her mother’s (Zoe Saldana) wishes to be a part of the girl scouts. A trio of her fellow scout mates, hell bent on selling cookies, and saving monkey’s, join along for the journey, because I guess the duo isn’t enough entertainment? While we follow along in the chase, Vivo is chalk full of detailed animation, and the monkey itself is the main enjoyment of the film. He’s an adorable looking little yellow guy, with a fedora hat, and has plenty of personality. It’s all there to be fun and yet, everything in Vivo felt like a big letdown.
It’s the spirit and inclusive narrative of Vivo that works. I wouldn’t blame someone for finding it enjoyable. But unlike The Mitchells vs The Machines or what Luca brought to the table in animated films, Vivo fails at its major goal, which is giving us music to fall in love with. Even with all that it has going for it, the slick lyrics of Miranda, a fun cast of voice-actors, an adorable title character, and a fun message of being true to oneself, Vivo still fails to succeed at being memorable. Kids may be more enamored with Vivo than I was, but when Lin-Manuel Miranda is involved you expect great things. Vivo left me singing a different tune.
VIVO IS ON NETFLIX THIS FRIDAY AUGUST 6TH
Written by: Leo Brady