[REVIEW] ‘VIVO’ or Play That Guitar Kinkajou

For musical fans like myself 2021 has been a very exciting year. It’s like people finished 2020 and decided to sing! We’ve had everything from In the Heights in the theater to Schmigadoon on streaming. Now we have our first animated musical of the year in Vivo and it’s maybe not the top-tier film I hoped it would be but it’s still entertaining with some beautiful animation and music.

Vivo features the music of Lin-Manuel Miranda and is another solid offering from Sony Pictures Animation (the weakest was Wish Dragon which I found a little dull but still a great year for the studio). It’s also been a busy year for Miranda with this, In the Heights and Encanto coming up. I love that Miranda has embraced animation so fully since Moana and that studios are putting out diverse films that introduce children to different music and cultures.

The music for Vivo comes from the streets of Havana and in particular a kinkajou named Vivo. He loves performing with his owner Andrés in the town square. However, one day tragedy strikes and Vivo has to take a letter to Andrés’ love Marta who lives in Miami, Florida. All of the Vivo aspects worked well with outstanding animation and catchy music.

Sony Pictures Animation has once again shown their master skill at combining 2D and CGI animation in new and inventive ways. I loved in Vivo how the backgrounds moved and flowed and the characters burst forward out of the screen. I wish I could find an image to show you how great the animation looks in these sequences.

The downside to the movie is Vivo meets a little girl named Gabi who helps him on his journey to Miami. While she had her cute moments, I found her to be mostly pretty grating. I also don’t think she was needed. The story would have been perfectly sweet with just Vivo trying to help out his friend Andrés. Maybe give him another animal friend like a bird or a fish? That’s how I would have gone.

That said, there’s still a lot to like in this film and families will have a good time watching it together on Netflix. It’s got a sweet message about friendship and loyalty while celebrating Cuban culture with energy and pizazz. The good certainly outweighs any negative.

7 out of 10

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