Lin-Manuel Miranda’s colorful animated musical learns to be flexible.
Lin-Manuel Miranda is one of the most fearless musical actors on stage and screen. From “Hamilton” to “In The Heights” to “Mary Poppins Returns,” he’s made a name for himself. Now, with the animated feature “Vivo,” he voices the title character, writes the songs, and produces it with his beats and styles. Like “The Mitchells vs. The Machines,” this Sony Pictures Animation entry found on a spot on the Netflix schedule, and with a Spanish theme, it has the kind of high spirits as in the “Blame it on the Samba” segment in “Melody Time,” “The Three Caballeros,” “Rio,” “Ferdinand,” or “Coco,” and it’s important messages for kids and parents are honest and true.
Vivo is a young kinkajou, who’s kind of like a lemur from the Amazon Rainforest, and found himself performing with the human Andres (voiced by Juan de Marcos Gonzalez) on the streets of Havana, Cuba. Though the human can’t understand him, they still sing in perfect melody and they lived together like father and son. He learns to be flexible when Andres receives a letter from his old music partner whom he never admitted his love to: the famous singer Marta Sandoval (voiced by Gloria Estefan), who invites them to Miami, Florida. Vivo doesn’t want to leave Havana, because he’s a small time animal, but the song Andres wrote for her must be delivered. That is until, Andres passes away, and Vivo’s only hope is to have a young rapper named Gabi (voiced by newcomer Ynairaly Simo), who is the recently departed’s grand-niece and lives in Key West.
The most annoying segments involve Gabi being forced by her mother (voiced by Zoe Saldana) into joining a Girl Scout troop, who are so dedicated to protecting the Everglades that they criticize a nice guy for wearing crocs and driving a car. Those girls have to pursue Gabi for not having Vivo vaccinated, but they already had to leave to deliver the song to Marta.
The movie also has to play like “The Wizard of Oz,” when Vivo helps a bashful spoonbill named Dancarino (voiced by Brian Tyree Henry) express his love to Valentina (voiced by Nicole Byer), and when he has to dodge a vicious python (voiced by Michael Rooker). And like that movie, the songs are able to guide our hairy hero on the right path.
Even if I guessed some of the change of plans, I’m still fascinated by how the movie teaches kids to be flexible in a time of crisis, and how there’s more to a character than meets the eye. And even if the animal and girl can’t understand each other (cliche alert), they’re still able to take a break from the whole “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles” routines by arguing less and singing more.
I’m sure those who weren’t vaccinated were able to see Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “In The Heights” on HBO Max, but I was still disappointed in how that high-spirited musical was box office failure. It was colorful and vibrant, all the reasons for going to a Broadway musical, but I know that on Netflix, “Vivo” will attract a crowd of streamers.
I always suggested that if Miranda can use a cockney accent in “Mary Poppins Returns” or write such entertaining songs in “Moana,” both from Disney, he should voice in an animated movie, and he’s absolutely fun as Vivo. I love the hat and bandana he wears, and I admire his energy and beats. And you also get some Simo making her movie debut on the right note, and Estefan and Gonzalez being the wise and uplifting humans in the kinkajou’s life.
“Vivo” is full of melodies, colors, and sincerely touching moments for both kids and adults.
Streaming on Netflix and Playing in Select Theaters