Earlier this year, Netflix released The Mitchells vs The Machines (still my number one movie of the year so far!) after acquiring it from Sony Pictures Animation. Now, after opting to forgo a cinematic release, Sony have licensed their latest movie Vivo to Netflix, where it will be streaming from August 6th. Directed by “The Croods” filmmaker Kirk DeMicco, Vivo not only stars Lin-Manuel Miranda as Vivo, but also features a whole new set of songs by the current king of the musicals. Expectations for another hit are definitely high.
We’re in colourful Havana, where elderly musician Andrés (Cuban musician Juan de Marcos González) regularly visits the local plaza to entertain the locals along with his little kinkajou, Vivo (Lin-Manuel). As they launch into a catchy song, it’s clear that we can understand everything that Vivo is singing or saying, while everyone else just hears little monkey noises. And occasionally, Vivo launches into one of Lin-Manuel’s signature style energetic rapping solos, something which always sounds the same to me and is actually starting to wear very thin. It took me out of the song and thankfully, those moments are very few and far between throughout the remainder of the movie.
Andrés and Vivo are clearly the best of friends, both sharing a passion for music. We learn how Andrés rescued Vivo when he was younger, earning his trust through the power of music, so when a letter arrives from Andrés old singing partner Marta (Gloria Estefan), it threatens to disrupt what Vivo views as the perfect life together.
Switching to a beautiful 2D style of vintage animation, Andrés recounts his love for Marta as they performed together in Cuba many years ago. He also recalls the life-long sadness at having to hold back on revealing his feelings to her when she was offered the chance to be a major solo singing star in Florida and how they haven’t spoken since. Now, Marta has got in touch after all these years to ask if Andrés would like to join her for her final concert in Miami and he sees this as one last chance to confess his love. Andrés opens up an old trunk full of mementoes from their singing days and shows Vivo the song he wrote for Marta at the time they parted ways. He now plans to take the song with him and give it to Marta in person.
Sadly, tragedy strikes and Vivo takes it upon himself to travel all the way to Miami and honour his friends dream by delivering the letter in person. He befriends Gabi (Ynairaly Simo), a young girl who is visiting Havana from Florida and who also has an interest in music. Gabi never got to tell her late father just how much she loved him, so shares Vivo’s passion for delivering the message of love. Together they venture back to Gabi’s home in Keywest, Florida, determined to make it to Miami in time for Marta’s final show.
All of this setup takes place within the first 30 minutes or so. We’ve already had uplifting show tunes, heartbreak and emotion, beautiful animation and the setup of an important quest for our little hero to undertake. Unfortunately, that quest then feels like it has been overstretched for the next 40 minutes or so and the whole thing just struggles to hold interest. Every so often, there’s another catchy song to wake you up, but as Gabi and Vivo begin making their way slowly through the Everglades, meeting other talking animals and finding themselves in one perilous situation after another, it’s just nowhere near as imaginative or interesting enough to come anywhere close to competing with something like The Mitchells vs The Machines.
When they do finally arrive in Miami, and the annoying and unnecessary characters are out of the picture, things do pick up once again, but it’s not quite enough. Miami is beautifully portrayed in vibrant and colourful animation and the songs throughout are all good, but fairly forgettable (it’s the day after watching and I can’t actually remember a single song!). Similar to Into the Heights (which I enjoyed far less than Vivo), another recent Lin-Manuel Miranda musical, having relatively good songs scattered among a thinly stretched story, just isn’t enough to make a great movie.
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Web developer by day, with a movie and TV watchlist that continues to grow as much as my spare time reduces! My favourite movie is Inception and, despite what everyone says, I do not have a man-crush on Tom Cruise.