Kirk DeMicco & Brandon Jeffords’ “Vivo”: Film Review

In 2015, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s historical rap musical Hamilton took the world by storm. Seemingly overnight, Miranda became one of the most in-demand songwriters in show business. Yet, while his work on Moana and Mary Poppins Returns, among others, kept him in the limelight, it never captured the same magic that his breakout musical did. That is until a little animated film by the name of Vivo came along. Vivo captures the essence of Miranda’s signature style while expanding his lyrical poeticism into other musical genres.

The film follows Vivo (Miranda), a musically talented kinkajou who, along with quirky tween Gabi (Ynairaly Simo), go on a quest from Cuba to Miami to deliver a special love song after Vivo’s partner, Andrés (Juan de Marcos), passes away. While the narrative is not complex, Gabi and Vivo’s adventure is one full of laughs and the occasional tear. It also allows the audience to be taken on a melodic voyage through different rhythms.

Miranda’s lyrical rap acts as a kind of guide through genres such as mambo (“One of a Kind” & “Mambo Cabana”), autotuned electronic pop (“My Own Drum”), and techno (“Running Out of Time”). The venture into different genres not only pushes Miranda to deliver an unique performance, but it also exposes young audiences to styles they likely have never heard before (especially mambo).

Just like how mambo is introduced to a new generation, the cyclical nature of music lies at the heart of Vivo‘s message. While our time on this Earth is limited, love, passion, and music will always survive in some form. As Marta Sandoval (Gloria Estefan) says in the film:

Here I though this was about saying goodbye to the old songs. But now, I have a new song to sing.

As long as we have musicians like Miranda paying tribute to the past, there is no goodbye; only a hello to all the new melodies still to play.

The Silver Lining

Vivo‘s “One of a Kind” is one of the best opening numbers to an animated musical in quite some time. Juan de Marcos gives an incredible vocal performance as Andrés, as does Miranda. The melody is one you just can’t help but move to. It marries classical mambo with Miranda’s style perfectly, while still feeling unique. Not only that, all of Vivo and Andrés’ backstory is tightly packed into this three minute song, without feeling like an exposition dump. If you’re not sure if you’ll like Vivo, just watch this opening number and you’ll end up being dazzled for the rest of the film’s breezy 95 minute runtime.

Vivo is available to stream on Netflix this Friday!

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