Movie review: Vivo

Published November 6, 2021

Animated films featuring a man-pet pair usually present the latter as a sidekick. One has witnessed that in Disney’s Aladdin and Jungle Book, where Abu and Baloo provided comic relief. However, in the case of Shaggy and Scooby-Doo in the Scooby-Doo animated films, both are losers of a different kind, playing sidekicks to one another.

The musical comedy Vivo changes the trend and presents the title character of a kinkajou as a protagonist, who fulfils his master’s last wish. Here, Vivo is a multi-talented kinkajou, a tropical mammal that looks like a monkey-cat hybrid, performs in the streets of Havana, and loves music, thanks to his master Andrés Hernandez, a musician of the yore.

When Andrés receives a letter from his old friend Maria Sandoval, for a reunion performance, Vivo disapproves of the trip. An old Andrés wants to travel to Miami for the final concert of his ‘legendary’ friend and former love interest. Andrés even shows Vivo, the song he has written for Maria, but could never muster the courage to present. Things change as Andrés dies, with his song remaining undelivered and his wish unfulfilled.

From here begins a colourful adventure, where like Jungle Book, there is a mission to be accomplished. If delivering Mowgli, the man-cub, was the task for Baloo and Bagheera in the Disney classic, here, it’s up to the purple-haired Gabi, Andrés’ grandniece to reach Maria before the concert. Now Gabi is a youngster, with her own pre-teen issues, but the way she and Vivo gel during the adventure makes the movie more interesting. They miss the bus to Miami, fight a giant python in the swamp and avoid ‘spies’, not to mention the trip from Cuba to the USA, but get the job done!

Vivo is voiced by Lin-Manuel Miranda, famed actor, singer, and musician, who does complete justice with the character. The soul of Vivo is the soundtrack and there could be no better person than Miranda to deliver them. The songs are the brainchild of Lin-Manuel Miranda, whose shows at Broadway and inputs in movies make him a modern-day legend. Miranda emphasises the use of Cuban beats and rhythms, and some of the songs feature his signature singing style. Cuban singer and actress Gloria Estefan provides vocals for Maria, Ynairaly Sino excels as the voice of the misunderstood Gabi, Zoe Saldana (of the Guardians of the Galaxy and Avatar fame) plays Gabi’s mother and André’s niece-in-law while Andrés is played by Cuban musician Juan De Marcos Gonzales.

Directed by Kirk DeMicco, the movie shows how music connects people across years and miles away. It’s a must-watch for the family, as it tells the audience how to make new friends as well as how to grieve the loss of loved ones. The power of music, when combined with friendship, gives you Vivo and puts a smile on your face.

Published in Dawn, Young World, November 6th, 2021

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