Being that “Vivo” is a children’s animated film, I gathered experts around me to watch and help with this review. What follows are the impressions and final judgments.
“Vivo” means alive and that’s what energy Lin-Miranda has certainly infused into this fun family film. It opens in an animated Havana, Cuba, where the music, colors and relationships are passionate. Old man Andres (Juan de Marcos) has received a letter from famous singer Marta (Gloria Estefan), a long lost love, suggesting a reunion in Miami. Andres is ecstatic and finds an old love song he had once written for her. Perhaps they could perform it for the first time together.
There is also a pouty rebellious 10-year-old, Gabi (Ynairaly Simo), and an adorable kinkajou (Miranda), with a long prehensile tail, who team up to connive transport to Miami to deliver the special song to Marta. A series of creatively conjured challenges and obstacles to this plan creates the tension and Miranda’s music provides the inescapable joy.
However, it is the music of “Vivo” that kids have been raving about more than the story or characters. So, even though the plot is thin, kids are spellbound auditorily by a surprising variety of musical genres and upbeat tones making this entire animated film a tribute to Lin-Manuel’s brilliant musical talent.
Gabi, despite her incorrigible manner, mirrors a theme in the film about walking to the beat of her own drum. She’s different and she accuses her mother (Zoe Saldaña) of not understanding her, but she also has a keenly developed value system. She refuses to wear a school uniform conforming her to the rest and she is constantly coming up with a new plan to circumvent each new obstacle put before her.
As far as animation expertise goes, my experts tell me that it’s a 2 or 3 out of 5, so let’s call it a 2.5. The style used is efficient, but we each have other favorites. Mine is the life-like realism of Hayao Miyazaki (“The Wind Rises”), who is said to be one of the best filmmakers in the history of animation. Notably, the “Vivo” figures were robust and exaggerated, with wide hips and wide faces – a little abstract for me.
For story development, my experts give it a 4/5. Miranda’s voice characterization of the humanized, persevering kinkajou is adorable. We can also appreciate the spunky voice of Gabi. But the plot features were weak. While Gabi and Vivo are perpetually trying to get out of one challenge after another, how much can we identify with delivering sheet music to a diva? It’s not like saving the planet from a climate apocalypse or rescuing a damsel in distress. But in the final minutes of “Vivo” we learn some crucial family information about Gabi and this truly deepened the emotional impact of the story, raising the bland plot concept to a 4.
For soundtrack “Vivo” gets a hands-down 5/5. 100%! Kids and adults were entertained. A variety of genres and moods makes this a soundtrack that captivates everyone.
The bottom line is that “Vivo” champions values of independence, self-reliance, perseverance, and love. While the plot is not dramatic in itself, the presentation will inspire everyone to feel good.
Thanks go to Armando, 9, and Desmond, 7, along with their parents, a game animator and a voice artist, and their grandpa, a technical trainer, as the experts who watched “Vivo” with me and gave me their opinions.
Director: Kirk DeMicco
Co-Director: Brandon Jeffords
Writer: Writers: Kirk DeMicco(screenplay), Quiara Alegría Hudes(screenplay), and Peter Barsocchini(story)
Producers: Lisa Stewart, Michelle Wong and Rich Moore
Cast: Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ynairaly Simo, Zoe Saldaña, Juan de Marcos, Brian Tyree Henry, Gloria Estefan, Michael Rooker and Nicole Byer
Music and Lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda
Release: August 6, 2021
Official Website: https://www.sonypicturesanimation.com/projects/films/vivo
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