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Vivo Review: Is a Craggy Adventure That is Delightful but Slight

Sony Pictures Animation is back with another Netflix production after the fantastic family diversion The Mitchells vs. the Machines earlier this year. Lin-Manuel Miranda plays the titular kinkajou (a rare South American animal) who performs on the streets of Havana, Cuba, alongside his human counterpart — an elderly Andrés (Juan de Marcos).

The film begins with a foot-taping dance performance in which Miranda’s broadway rapping is mixed with a beautiful dose of traditional Cuban instrumentation. This is a good place to start because the combination immediately drew me in. Surprisingly, it serves as an engrossing starting point for this story, which quickly shifts to a letter Andrés receives from a long-lost ex-love-interest and now-famous singer Marta Sandoval (Gloria Estefan).

Marta is performing at her final Miami gig, and her dream is to reunite with her ex-partner Andrés and relive their glory days of playing together. Vivo, who has been regarded by his owner as a companion and confidant rather than a pet animal, is initially envious. But a brilliantly created 2-D animated dreamlike sequence (this portion makes the actual animation look terribly pale) that harkens back to Andres and Marta’s jazzy, could-have-been romance helps Vivo understand.

The real reason for Andrés’s trip to Miami, however, is that he had written a love song for Marta that he had never told her about. He doesn’t hold back because this is the final time he’ll be able to. When things don’t go as planned for the couple, Vivo is forced to partner up with Andres’s grandniece Gabi (voiced by Ynairaly Simo).

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Together, they go on an odyssey to get from Florida (Gabi’s home) to Miami (where Marta’s show is) in time to deliver Andres’ song. The rest of the picture is filled with colorful enthusiastic people, forced-fed villains who throw roadblocks in their path, and a lot of singing and dancing (not all of it is as excellent as the opening sequence).

In terms of the film itself, it attempts to address some really serious issues beneath the surface. Gabi, the film’s best character, is a young girl approaching puberty. She recently lost her father, and her unusual ways, sans the weird purple-colored hair and matching neckties with skirts, do not set well with her anxious, if nosy, mother. This picture, like Disney’s “Coco,” has an overarching subject of sorrow and how it impacts people’s lives for better or worse.

Gabi, an outcast, does things her own way. While the rest of the world and her mother expect her to be a hardworking, cookie-selling adolescent, she prefers to march to the beat of her own drum. The song ‘My Own Drum’ is a fantastic and upbeat number that employs contemporary music to convey Gabi’s message.

Unfortunately, newbie Ynairaly Simo’s great performance as Gabi is undermined by unfocused writing that frequently squanders along to less intriguing portions. It’s also disappointing that Vivo, the titular character, isn’t intriguing enough.

Kirk DeMicco (renowned for the original The Croods film) casts him in a perplexing mix of talking animals in animated flicks. Vivo can be heard by the audience and the animals in the film, but not by the human characters. This brings the film to a halt since Gabi, the sole key human character in the film, understands Vivo without him saying anything. As a result, the decision to make him a talking animal for the second half of the film does not sit well with him.

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To make matters worse, a slew of other animals, including two lovelorn birds and a python, are tossed into the fray. This is most likely due to the director’s belief that he didn’t have enough material to satisfy the 96-minute length. Furthermore, the film’s resolve is clumsy and does not feel well-earned. It’s also a pathetic reason to villainize a group of teen females only to get them back on the ferry train. The film’s middle section, in my opinion, is full of filler stuff, which isn’t ideal for a film that starts out in a wonderful manner.

The only thing that makes Vivo memorable is Miranda’s blend of Cuban traditionalism with Americanist anarchy. The jazzy blend of hip-hop and EDM, laced with Miranda’s Broadway poetry, works in parts, and that’s the only reason you should take this trip.

Vivo Review: Is a Craggy Adventure That is Delightful but Slight
Vivo Review: Is a Craggy Adventure That is Delightful but Slight
Vivo Review: Is a Craggy Adventure That is Delightful but Slight
Vivo Review: Is a Craggy Adventure That is Delightful but Slight
Vivo Review: Is a Craggy Adventure That is Delightful but Slight
Vivo Review: Is a Craggy Adventure That is Delightful but Slight

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