Vivo: Lin-Manuel Miranda Can Do No Wrong

(L-R) Juan de Marcos González as “Andres” and Lin-Manuel Miranda as "Vivo" in Vivo. ©2021 SPAI. All Rights Reserved.

Lin-Manuel Miranda is having himself a strong year and Vivo is no exception as audiences will have a lot of fun watching this one.

Vivo (Lin-Manuel Miranda) is a kinkajou or what we otherwise refer to as the rainforest “honey bear.” Not just any regular kinkajou but a one-of-a-kind one. He can dance and sing! He spends his time in the town square with his human, Andrés (Juan de Marcos), where the two of them connect through music. If you haven’t figured it out yet, this film is a musical and Miranda delivers when it comes to the film’s Latin-flavored music. Anyway, the two of them have a good thing going. It all changes when Andrés gets a letter from his former partner, Marta Sandoval (Gloria Estefan). The longtime diva is retiring and wants him there for her final concert. Vivo, on the other hand, feels at home in Cuba and doesn’t want to leave. Andrés wants to finally give Marta the song he wrote for her when she was leaving.

When tragedy strikes, Vivo decides to take up this mission. It won’t be easy. For one, he’s not human and has no way of driving or ordering a plane ticket. Hope comes in the form of Gabi (Ynairaly Simo). Gabi is this oddball character and she brings so much energy to the film. Watch this character become a classic in the years to come! Miranda gives her a tune about dancing to the beat of her own drum. It’s a catchy tune but it’s also perfect for Gabi. Over a month after watching the film and parts of the song are still playing in my head. But from there, it’s one heck of a journey to get from A to B. A journey that takes them straight into the Everglades. You can blame some overzealous scouts for that.

(L-R) Lin-Manuel Miranda as Vivo and Ynairaly Simo as Gabi in Vivo. ©2021 SPAI. All Rights Reserved.

Between Miranda and composer Alex Lacamoire, the film brings an authentic flavor to the music. To say that this film is a love letter to Cuban music would not be an understatement. A lot of musicals aren’t driven by music as the plot but music is what drives Vivo forward. Miranda also brings some of his trademark stylings, too. I wouldn’t expect any different from the PEGT winner. He’s an Oscar shy of the PEGOT but his day is coming soon–maybe even this year. Sony Pictures Animation unloaded the film onto Netflix because of the pandemic but Miranda has another Netflix original this fall, tick, tick… BOOM! Disney’s Encanto will see a release in November. These films, of course, are in addition to In the Heights earlier this year.

Plus, you can never really go wrong on a project that includes Oscar-winning cinematographer Roger Deakins among the crew. Deakins served as a visual consultant for the long-gestating project. The visuals are brightly colored whether it’s in Havana, Key West, the Everglades, or Miami. Everything about the film’s color palette is just beautiful. It changes from location to location. Production designer Carlos Zaragoza gives the film a look that goes beyond realism. Two of the standout musical sequences–especially “Mambo Cabana” and “My Own Drum”–mix both 2D and 3D elements. Visually speaking, Vivo is different from animated films that came before. It isn’t a photorealistic film and that’s something that sets it apart from other films.

Even though the film may be launching on Netflix, it is Sony Pictures Animation’s entrance into the world of musicals. As such, it’s no surprise that filmmakers pay homage to some of the greatest musicals in cinema history. Vivo even moves in a way that’s similar to Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra. Among them:

  • 42nd Street
  • Swing Time
  • Top Hat
  • Singin’ in the Rain
  • An American in Paris
  • West Side Story

Vivo may not be traditionally animated but this film has laughs, tears, heart, soul, and music.

DIRECTOR: Kirk DeMicco
CO-DIRECTOR: Brandon Jeffords
SCREENWRITERS: Kirk DeMicco and Quiara Alegría Hudes
CAST: Lin-Manuel Miranda, Zoe Saldaña, Juan de Marcos, Brian Tyree Henry, Michael Rooker, Nicole Byer, introducing Ynairaly Simo, and Gloria Estefan, Katie Lowes, Olivia Trujillo, Lidya Jewett

Netflix launches Vivo on August 6, 2021.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.