Review: Vivo

Boasting dynamic songs and brightly beautiful visuals, Kirk DiMicco’s Vivo provides heartwarming entertainment for children and parents alike and once again proves the immense talents of Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Miranda voices the titular Vivo, a musically-inclined kinkajou alongside his human partner Andres (Juan de Marcos Gonzalez), who entertain the masses on the streets of Cuba. Andres receives a letter from his former partner and lost love Marta (Gloria Estefan), who wants to reunite for her farewell show in Miami. The next morning, Vivo discovers Andres passed away without delivering Marta a specially-written song.

At Andres’ memorial, Vivo meets Andres’ niece Rosa (Zoe Saldana) and her daughter Gabi (Ynairaly Simo), who live in Key West. Vivo sneaks aboard Gabi’s luggage in an attempt to get the song to Marta and complete his friend’s final wish.

Music is the cornerstone of the narrative and the film itself. Each song, written by Miranda, have their own distinct purpose in the narrative in addition to being extremely catchy. Not only the songs themselves, but music is instrumental in the lives of the characters. Andres and Vivo live their lives as buskers, while Marta is a professional musician. Even if she is not musically talented, Gabi’s journey and characterization is musically driven.

Visually, DiMicco frames the film as a brightly lit celebration. The film exudes sunshine and neon light which is a welcome diversion from the usual darker element of modern films. Some problems arise when the characters aren’t singing. The songs are so dynamic that each bit of plot or dialogue feels in the way before more songs start. This is a good problem to have, despite the general narrative being fairly forgettable.

Miranda provides Vivo with a playful enthusiasm, though Simo shines in an energetically charged voice performance. Estefan and Saldana also do solid work, with Brian Tyree Henry and Nicole Byer lending their voices to a pair of memorably star-crossed spoonbills.

Vivo delivers a heartwarming story with great voice performances and memorable songs. Lin-Manuel Miranda continues to hit on all cylinders.

Score: 3.5/5.0

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