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

Netflix’s animated journey Vivo has a bizarre origin story. Lin-Manuel Miranda originally pitched the movie to DreamWorks in 2010, ahead of his Hamilton times. The job ended up at Sony Animation, where by it was rapidly-tracked and high-quality-tuned with Substantial Faculty Musical screenwriter Peter Barsocchini. Slated for a 2020 theatrical release, Vivo was ultimately shifted to 2021, then offered off to Netflix, the place it’s eventually offered to stream.

Vivo will come from director Kirk DeMicco (The Croods), with new music by Miranda and longtime collaborator Alex Lacamorien (Hamilton and In the Heights). And when the movie leans into the tunes and the really like story at its main, it shines, evoking poignant feelings. But when the filmmakers attempt to smoosh in wildlife hijinks, it falls into the all-way too-familiar trappings of the most cliché animated kids videos.

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

Picture: Sony Pictures Animation

The movie follows a kinkajou named Vivo (voiced by Lin-Manuel Miranda) who performs with musician Andrés (Juan de Marcos González) every single day in a plaza in Cuba. When Andres’ shed really like Marta (Gloria Estefan), who still left Cuba a lot of a long time back to turn out to be a well-known musician, sends him a letter inquiring him to come to her previous live performance, he’s determined to give her the track he wrote quite a few many years in the past on her departure. But there is a significant plot cause Andrés are unable to make the journey himself, or connect with or e-mail to make clear that. So Vivo have to journey to Miami with the tune, even if that indicates partnering up with Andrés’ terrific-niece, quirky Gabi (Ynairaly Simo), who a great deal to Vivo’s despair, is an aspiring musician who is not really fantastic at tunes.

The movie’s major offering issue is Lin-Manuel Miranda, both equally as songwriter and as a vocal existence. But that makes a unusual knowledge where Vivo raps about getting hungry and scrappy on the streets, and it really just feels like an animated version of a Hamilton outtake. Whilst the new music is stunning, and absolutely one particular of the film’s highlights, listening to Miranda’s nasal voice appear out of the lovely kinkajou is jarring. (It does not aid that Miranda has come to be a meme on TikTok, and for the quite plugged-in, he’s been involved with a selected stigma considering the fact that a lot of of the memes make pleasurable of him.)

Miranda’s songwriting expertise are nonetheless stellar, but the greatest part of Vivo takes place when the songs and animation do the job in tandem to elevate the tale, enjoying with the visual design and style to emphasize the new music, so it all meshes collectively in a beautiful symphony. Andrés sings about his memories with Marta, and the film shifts into a retro live performance-poster model, with dazzling blocks of shade and soft edges. When Gabi sings an anthem to staying unapologetically odd, it becomes a neon techscape. These times are transcendent, a testomony to both the energy of the songs and the creativity of the animation production style and design.

marta and andres dancing, stylized like a retro movie poster

Picture: Sony Pictures Animation

But although individuals sequences shine at the commencing, the center of the movie turns into a romp by the Everglades, with a shoehorned-in subplot about Gabi attempting to keep away from the in-universe Girl Scouts since she thinks they’re lame rule-followers. (Also, they are threatening to report Vivo to animal control.) There are a great deal of talking-animal hijinks, as Vivo and Gabi meander through the wetlands. They get separated early in their journey, which only escalates the difficulty of how disjointed this escapade feels from the overall story about tunes and extensive-shed would-be enthusiasts. The center of the motion picture feels like two totally independent plotlines: a single about a shed kinkajou encountering wild animals, and yet another about a odd small lady who does not want to suit in with many others. Some emotional threads do raise the total tale — like Gabi and her mother having difficulties to recognize each and every other after the death of Gabi’s father — but a random really like tale amongst two birds, for occasion, doesn’t include a great deal.

Luckily, by the time the film finishes, the tale shifts again to Marta and Andrés, and the closing musical sequence is poignant. If much more of the tale centered on that romance and the electricity of music, Vivo would be a unforgettable working experience, 1 equivalent to the emotional energy of Pixar’s Coco, which also focuses on new music, very long-dropped enthusiasts, and the upcoming technology carrying on the torch. Even with stunning animated sequences and great audio, the film juggles too numerous shenanigans, detracting from the much more effective story at hand. However, the ending harkens back again to what manufactured the motion picture shine in the initial put, tying it all with each other in a superbly bittersweet finale.

Vivo is offered on Netflix on Aug. 6.

Mary E. Alvarez

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