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Vivo review: Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Netflix movie is like a Hamilton outtake

Netflix’s animated journey Vivo has a bizarre origin story. Lin-Manuel Miranda initially pitched the film to DreamWorks in 2010, earlier than his Hamilton days. The venture ended up at Sony Animation, the place it was fast-tracked and fine-tuned with High School Musical screenwriter Peter Barsocchini. Slated for a 2020 theatrical launch, Vivo was ultimately shifted to 2021, then bought off to Netflix, the place it’s lastly accessible to stream.

Vivo comes from director Kirk DeMicco (The Croods), with music by Miranda and longtime collaborator Alex Lacamorien (Hamilton and Within the Heights). And when the film leans into the music and the love story at its core, it shines, evoking poignant feelings. However when the filmmakers attempt to smoosh in wildlife hijinks, it falls into the all-too-familiar trappings of probably the most cliché animated youngsters motion pictures.

[Ed. note: this review contains spoilers for Vivo.]

vivo on andres shoulder

Picture: Sony Footage Animation

The movie follows a kinkajou named Vivo (voiced by Lin-Manuel Miranda) who performs with musician Andrés (Juan de Marcos González) day-after-day in a plaza in Cuba. When Andres’ misplaced love Marta (Gloria Estefan), who left Cuba a few years in the past to turn into a well-known musician, sends him a letter asking him to return to her final live performance, he’s decided to provide her the tune he wrote a few years in the past on her departure. However there’s a major plot purpose Andrés can’t make the journey himself, or name or e-mail to elucidate that. So Vivo should journey to Miami with the tune, even when which means partnering up with Andrés’ great-niece, quirky Gabi (Ynairaly Simo), who a lot to Vivo’s despair, is an aspiring musician who isn’t superb at music.

The film’s greatest promoting level is Lin-Manuel Miranda, each as songwriter and as a vocal presence. However that creates a bizarre expertise the place Vivo raps about being hungry and scrappy on the streets, and it actually simply seems like an animated model of a Hamilton outtake. Whereas the music is attractive, and positively one of many movie’s highlights, listening to Miranda’s nasal voice come out of the lovable kinkajou is jarring. (It doesn’t assist that Miranda has turn into a meme on TikTok, and for the very plugged-in, he’s been related to a sure stigma since most of the memes make enjoyable of him.)

Miranda’s songwriting abilities are nonetheless stellar, however the perfect a part of Vivo occurs when the music and animation work in tandem to raise the story, taking part in with the visible fashion to focus on the music, so all of it meshes collectively in a phenomenal symphony. Andrés sings about his reminiscences with Marta, and the film shifts right into a retro concert-poster fashion, with shiny blocks of colour and delicate edges. When Gabi sings an anthem to being unapologetically bizarre, it turns into a neon techscape. These moments are transcendent, a testomony to each the energy of the music and the creativity of the animation manufacturing design.

marta and andres dancing, stylized like a retro movie poster

Picture: Sony Footage Animation

However whereas these sequences shine at first, the center of the film turns right into a romp via the Everglades, with a shoehorned-in subplot about Gabi attempting to keep away from the in-universe Woman Scouts as a result of she thinks they’re lame rule-followers. (Additionally, they’re threatening to report Vivo to animal management.) There are numerous talking-animal hijinks, as Vivo and Gabi meander via the wetlands. They get separated early of their journey, which solely escalates the issue of how disjointed this escapade feels from the general story about music and long-lost would-be lovers. The center of the film seems like two solely separate plotlines: one a few misplaced kinkajou encountering wild animals, and one other a few bizarre little woman who doesn’t wish to slot in with others. Some emotional threads do enhance the general story — like Gabi and her mom struggling to grasp one another after the loss of life of Gabi’s father — however a random love story between two birds, as an example, doesn’t add a lot.

Fortunately, by the point the movie ends, the story shifts again to Marta and Andrés, and the ultimate musical sequence is poignant. If extra of the story centered on that romance and the facility of music, Vivo could be a memorable expertise, one just like the emotional energy of Pixar’s Coco, which additionally focuses on music, long-lost lovers, and the following era carrying on the torch. Even with attractive animated sequences and fantastic music, the movie juggles too many shenanigans, detracting from the extra highly effective story at hand. Nonetheless, the ending harkens again to what made the film shine within the first place, tying all of it collectively in a fantastically bittersweet finale.

Vivo is on the market on Netflix on Aug. 6.

https://www.polygon.com/2021/8/6/22611805/vivo-review | Vivo overview: Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Netflix film is sort of a Hamilton outtake

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