Vivo (Lin-Manuel Miranda) is a kinkajou who, along with his owner Andrés (Juan de Marcos González), loves taking to a town square in Havana to entertain crowds of people through song and dance. A letter arrives giving the kinkajou a quest – to deliver a song that Andrés wrote for the famous singer Marta Sandoval (Gloria Estefan) to her in Miami. Vivo teams up with a little girl named Gabriella (Ynairaly Simo) along the way.
Lin-Manuel Miranda – who composed original songs for ‘Vivo’ as well as playing the titular role – has gathered quite a following at this stage. As a result, he’s also attracted a lot of studio attention, with his hands now in the pots of Disney (‘Moana’, ‘Mary Poppins Returns’, the upcoming ‘The Little Mermaid’ remake), Warner Bros. (‘In the Heights’), and now Sony. One wonders is the star of ‘Hamilton’ saving his good stuff for certain projects over others?
Speaking of the music, the ‘Vivo’ soundtrack, while lively and playful, isn’t quite as catchy as other work Miranda has produced. Still, there are a couple of earworms (even if they result from being played in the movie over and over). Story-wise, it feels very Disney Pixar, with an early twist taking the audience totally by surprise and proving heart-breaking (one doesn’t want to delve into what happens here as it’s better to go in blind and be swept along by the events).
There’s some slapstick thrown into the movie for kids and the protagonist himself is such a cute design that you wonder why they didn’t release this around Christmas and cash in on those toy sales. But one doesn’t want to get too cynical reviewing this movie as aside from being genuinely emotional, it just makes you want to smile with its glorious colour palette, musical enthusiasm, and sweet and touching characters and relationships.
‘Vivo’ is not going to shake up the world, and it’s far from the calibre of the best animated feature of the year so far, which is fellow Sony animation and Netflix release ‘The Mitchells vs. the Machines’. But it remains a thoroughly lovely animation. Lin-Manuel Miranda has yet to put a foot wrong.