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December 06th, 2021

vivo spotlight pageCourtesy photoELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times


“What difference can ONE SONG make?”

As someone who was in band for several years, I can unequivocally state one song can make a difference for someone, and that’s exactly what I said out loud when this question posed early on in Netflix’s new animated film “Vivo.” The movie follows  a music-loving kinkajou from Cuba named Vivo (Lin-Manuel Miranda, who also wrote the movie’s songs) as he embarks on the journey of a lifetime to deliver a love song for an old friend with some new friends, including young Gabi (Ynairaly Simo). 

Much like “In The Heights,” the  first thing I have to say about this movie is it has A LOT of energy – i.e., if you were take the  energy that practically vibrated  from this movie, you could power practically  the  entirety of Florida AND Cuba. The  colors and scenery design are dazzling to look at,  everything is extremely colorful (particularly the scenes that take place in Miami later on in the movie), and the animation throughout the movie was very well done. I also really liked the parts where main characters are traveling through the Florida Everglades, they’re made to be mysterious and kind of spooky, and there were a couple moments where even I couldn’t help but be worried about what was lurking in those waters. The studio behind “Vivo” was also behind “Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse,” so to me, it’s no surprise the animation was at a high quality. Overall,  the  movie is very bright and vibrant and it would be nearly impossible to be bored while watching it. 

The voice cast throughout the movie also did a great job. Lin-Manuel Miranda did a great job in the title role and injected humor and heart and every other emotion into his performance – there were multiple times when I was brought to some tears because of his voicework. Ynairaly Simo also did a great job as Gabi – like other female characters I’ve seen in recent movies, she is an absolute firecracker and she did an absolutely fantastic job making Gabi so fierce and funny, and I foresee her becoming a superstar in the future, somewhat like Auli'i Cravalho, the lead in Disney’s “Moana” (which Lin-Manuel Miranda also wrote music for). Overall, everyone in the voice cast did a great job, and the voicework was very much a highlight. 

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The  musical numbers were also performed very well throughout  the  movie. Each song has Lin-Manuel Miranda’s distinct stamp on it, and they’re all extremely catchy and a joy to listen to. My favorite songs in the movie were definitely “One More Song” (which has more heart and emotion than it deserves) and Gabi’s solo “My Own Drum,” which has so much energy and joy – I can easily see this fast becoming a popular workout song or a popular song for future dance routines. I also really enjoyed Gabi and Vivo’s duet “Keep The Beat” because it’s so uplifting and sweet, and Lin-Manuel Miranda and Ynairaly Simo sound great together. With the music, however, I wish the song “Tough Crowd” could have been longer – it’s only about 30 seconds long and I feel like there could have been another verse or two added into that scene to give it a little more of a punch. The music itself was also really well done, and I heard several different genres displayed, from rap/hip hop to salsa to easy pop to legit Broadway. The soundtrack is a joy to listen to, and if you’re so inclined, I would recommend listening to it on YouTube or finding the soundtrack at the store. 

The pacing of the movie is also very quick. The movie’s runtime is 99 minutes and everything zips along quickly and efficiently without really any extra muss or fuss. However, I do wish a few scenes had been slightly extended in order to allow for some more character development and to allow for just a little more depth. If there had been, say, 10 to 15 minutes added on, the runtime would have been perfect. The movie’s story itself also does a great job of talking about how grief feels and life moving on – those topics are talked about in a very kid-friendly way, and it’s very sweet and touching watching everything play out, even if I did break into tears a couple times the first time I watched it this past weekend. 

Overall, I very much enjoyed “Vivo” and would give it an A-minus. There’s so much energy throughout the movie, meaning the kids will probably remain interested, and the animation throughout the movie is also really well done, so my hat is off to the animation crew. The voice work is also really well done, and Lin-Manuel Miranda and Ynairaly Simo particularly stood out for me – they have great voice chemistry and are able to play off each other really well throughout the movie, especially with the musical numbers. If you’re a fan of any other of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s work, “Vivo” will be a joy to watch. 

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