REVIEW: VIVO (2021) After In the Heights (Jon M. Chu, 2021), Vivo is the second of four films

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Involving actor-singer-songwriter and producer and stage playwright, Lin-Manuel Miranda , which is planned for release this year. Based on a story idea by screenwriter In the Heights , Quiara Alegría Hudes , along with Peter Barsocchini known thanks to the text of a story he wrote for the television movie series High School Musical (2006 – 2008), Miranda had actually started developing Vivoin 2010 when this animated film was originally to be produced by DreamWorks Animation. However, after DreamWorks Animation decided to discontinue the Vivo production process in 2015, the animated musical was then handled by Sony Pictures Animation since 2016 with Kirk DeMicco ( The Croods , 2013) sitting in the directing chair while working on the story script together with Hudes. Miranda herself continues to be involved in writing the eleven songs that will be performed throughout the story of Vivo as well as being the voice actor for the character with the same name as the film’s title.

Set in Havana, Cuba, Vivo’s storyline begins when a musician named Andrés Hernández ( Juan de Marcos González ) who along with his pet, a kinkajou named Vivo (Miranda) who has the ability to play musical instruments, intends to fly to Miami, Florida, United States of America, to meet the legendary singer, Marta Sandoval ( Gloria Estefan), who were Andrés Hernández’s former musical partner and now asked him to appear together in his final stage performance. Andrés Hernández also wanted to use this opportunity to express his hidden love for Marta Sandoval through a song that he had written and kept for a long time. Unfortunately, the night before his departure, Andrés Hernández passed away. Feeling indebted to the figure of Andrés Hernández who has looked after and nurtured him since childhood, Vivo then determined to fulfill Andrés Hernández’s last wish, which was to listen to the song he had written for Marta Sandoval.

Vivo , following in the footsteps of Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse (Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman, 2018), The Mitchells vs. The Machines (Mike Rianda, 2021), and Wish Dragon (Chris Appelhans, 2021), once again show a very pleasing development of the quality of story writing of the films released by Sony Pictures Animation. Like Wish Dragon , this first musical produced by Sony Pictures Animation also offers a not-so-new storyline. The first half of the story that talks about the relationship between Andrés Hernández’s character and Vivo’s character who is his pet is also quite bland. If without the presence of a songOne of a Kind and Mambo Cabana brought by characters voiced by González, Miranda, and Estefan as well as a colorful and beautiful visual touch of the city of Havana, Cuba, Vivo will immediately feel like running without any meaningful impression.

Vivo only feels really alive after the story line begins to shift to the friendly relationship that exists between Vivo’s character and Gabriela Hernández’s character ( Ynairaly Simo ) who is said to be helping Vivo’s character to deliver the song that Andrés Hernández’s character has written for Marta Sandoval’s character. Simo’s energetic vocal character finds the chemistry very pleasant and feels very fitting with Miranda’s vocal character. Miranda also gave a song called My Own Drumto be performed by the character Gabriela Hernández which can be executed perfectly by Simo as well as being the most powerful song presentation – and will not be easily removed from the heads of every audience – in the story of Vivo . The interaction formed between Gabriela Hernández’s character and a number of supporting characters who later appeared also further strengthened the tone of this film’s comedy story and made the narrative run well.

The songs that Miranda wrote together with composer Alex Lacamoire are indeed the soul for Vivo . Almost all the weaknesses that can be felt in writing the script for this film can be covered by the strong quality of the songs by Miranda and Lacamoire. It’s a shame if Estefan’s song Inside Your Heart at the end of the film and since the beginning of the story has been sung as an important song with a deep emotional touch turns out to be only present “as is” – especially if you’ve been expecting an emotional farewell song a la I’ll. Never Love Again by Lady Gaga’s character in A Star is Born(Bradley Cooper, 2018). Not a big problem considering that, overall, DeMicco was able to direct Vivo to be a presentation that appears light, moves fast, and is present as fun as the songs featured in the story timeline.

The vocals presented by Simo are indeed very special. Even so, the entire range of vocals that bring the characters in Vivo’s story to life managed to give their best performance. As a vocal filler for the main character in this film, Miranda can make Vivo’s character so easy to like. The dialogue building with González also makes the relationship that is formed between the two characters they play appear convincing. Despite appearing with a minimal portion of storytelling, Estefan’s vocals are strong – especially when the character Marta Sandoval that he plays is singing. The film’s vocal performances also feature Zoe Saldaña , Michael Rooker , and Brian Tyree Henrywhich further strengthens the overall quality of Vivo .