Vivo Film Review (2021): Animated Musical Swallowed by Color

Film Vivo is the latest work of Lin-Manuel Miranda who previously also adopted a Broadway play In the Heights (2021) into a musical. Full of catchy and colorful songs, but its position as a Netflix film made as light as possible makes this film easy to forget.

The story begins in Havana, Cuba where Andrés (Juan de Marcos González) is a street musician singing with a kinkajou named Vivo (Lin-Manuel Miranda). Andrés’ life changes after a letter from his former duet, Marta Sandoval (Gloria Estefan), who asks Andrés to come to his last concert in Miami.

But unfortunately Andrés died before he could show the last song he made for Marta. Vivo also had an adventure to deliver the song to Miami together with Gabi (Ynairaly Simo), Andrés’ nephew who previously came to Havana due to Andrés’ death.

Musical for kids
Considering that the Vivo film is intended for children aged 7 years and over, of course the story plot that is light and easy to follow is the main point. There’s plenty of humor and slapstick comedy to be found throughout the film, which unfortunately isn’t very impressive for adult audiences.

Visuals no longer need to be questioned. Sony brings bright neon colors and color palettes; distinguish warm Havana, sunny Florida, and the mysterious Everglades forests. And the most interesting is the 2D format with a jazzy and surreal feel.

But unfortunately there are many combinations, ranging from music, images, to culture in this film. Feels very crowded for a light film of an hour and a half. Where one segment feels bewitching, while the other feels bland.

Not so much different from Coco (2017) and Soul (2020) which take the theme of music and focus on losing family, Vivo is still less memorable in terms of stories. Opening with a lively beginning and touching ending, Vivo struggles to deliver a story that is cliche and sometimes very unexpected.

Interesting characters like the two Spoon Ibis birds, Dancarino (Brian Tyree Henry) and Valentina (Nicole Byer) seem to need more screentime . Likewise, the Trio Sand Dollar Troop, voiced by Katie Lowes, Olivia Trujillo, and Lidya Jewett, brings a new addition from the comedy side, developing into an interesting twist towards the end.

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s signature musical
Lin-Manuel Miranda is known as an actor and Broadway star who helped create one of the most popular plays of this century, In the Heights and Hamilton . In addition to voicing Vivo, he also wrote eight original songs with a Cuban feel, as explained by NBC News .

Various songs in this film combine various musical elements, ranging from hip-hop, EDM, rap with fast lyrics and mambo style which is one of the musical genres from Cuba. Feels the mix of traditional Cuban side with Gen-Z music in America.

The story is simple, but the music is the main attraction for this film. Miranda hit the ground running with the first song “One of a Kind”, or “My Own Drum”, which combines Gen Z hip-hop and pop. It’s a shame that the others haven’t quite hit it yet.

With a formulaic story, Vivo films are intended for children; colorful animations, catchy music, and lighthearted stories are made to keep them in front of the screen throughout the 90 minutes of the film. But Vivo is still too ordinary and typical Netflix content that is entertaining but easy to forget.

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