VIVO (NETFLIX) (2021)
SYNOPSIS: A one-of-kind kinkajou (voiced by Lin-Manuel Miranda), embarks on an unforgettable, musical adventure to deliver a love song to Marta (voiced by Gloria Estefan) on behalf of his owner Andrés (Buena Vista Social Club’s Juan De Marcos).
In a short span of eight months, Sony Pictures Animation and Netflix has brought us three dazzlingly animations to the small screen. After The Mitchells Vs The Machines and Wish Dragon, here comes Vivo!
Vivo features a number of big names in the industry. Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton, In The Heights) wrote the songs and voices Vivo, the cute Kinkajou, Kirk DeMicco (The Croods) directed the pic with former Disney animator Rich Moore (Wreck-It-Ralph) as producer and esteemed cinematographer Roger Deakins serving as visual consultant after moonlighting on Wall-E and How to Train our Dragon.
That’s not all. Louis Koo’s production company, One Cool Film is also one of the backers of this animation.
Anyway, the movie opens with a Kinkajou (Lin) basking in the central plaza in Havana, Cuba with his owner, the aged musician Andres Hernandez. Nothing liked a rousing musical number to open a musical theme animation. But good times never last. Andres passed away the day before he is due to reunite with his beloved Marta (Gloria Estefan) in Miami. Apparently, Andres never plucks up the courage to confess his love for Marta whom had left to pursue her singing career in the States decades ago. His last wish was to tell her how much he loves her through a song he has written for her. Alas, he never gets the chance to make it to Miami.
To fulfil his owner’s last wish, Vivo’s decides to deliver the song to Martha with the help of Andres’ grandniece, the tone deaf gutsy Gabi (Ynairaly Simo). With her protective mother, Rosa (Zoe Saldana) and a trio of overzealous girl scouts in the way, will Vivo and Gabi be able to complete their mission? Obviously, you know they will, this is a feel-good, family-oriented animation after all.
With a heavy Latin influence, Lin expectedly incorporates lots of music and song numbers into the story. The musical numbers are often vibrant, occasionally emotional and serves as a connecting bridge for the characters. Despite their vast differences in terms of music talents, the relationship between Vivo and Gabi is similar in a way that both has lost their kin. Vivo has lost his beloved owner. Gabi on the other hand lost her father when she was young. It’s not a mere journey for both to deliver a song but one to heal from their grief and loss.
If Luna scored with its authentic portrayal of Cinque Terre, then Vivo amazed us with the grand old architectural wonders of Cuba. Sony Animation certainly has come a long way and their bold animation techniques seem to hit quite a home run with the release of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and Mitchells in recent times. And now you can definitely add Vivo into its resume.
Taking a leaf out of Disney and Pixar animations, there’s a detour to the Everglades where our heroes encountered a pair of fumbling love birds and a menacing anaconda voiced by Michael Rooker. There’s adventure, musical numbers and funny gags, hardly a moment of boredom despite the fairly predictable execution and if you don’t mind, a lack of distinct memorable songs.
Still, Vivo is highly entertaining with two cute central characters and terrific visual splendour. The animation main theme song, “My Own Drum” written by Lin and Missy Elliot is either highly energetic or irritable depending on your mood.
Review by Linus Tee