Vivo: A Review

Annabella S. '22

From the director of The Croods, Vivo delivers a movie about a musically talented kinkajou and his journey to deliver a song for his old friend. Released on August 6th, 2021, the movie’s titular character, Vivo, is voiced by Lin Manuel Miranda, famous for his musical works, Hamilton and In The Heights.

The movie starts out with a scenery of the Cuban shore and Havana, introducing Vivo`s owner, Andrés, and the titular character, a kinkajou named Vivo.  Andrés gets a letter from his lover, Marta, where she apologizes for not being in his life and wishes to meet him in Miami for her final show.  Vivo isn’t pleased and tries to dissuade other people to not make his owner go, but Andrés gives into the pressure to travel to Miami to meet Marta. Andrés shows Vivo the last song he ever wrote, which Marta never heard.

Andrés sings another song about Marta.  At his owner’s funeral, Vivo meets Gabi, the great niece of Andrés Hernandez, who says he can come with her and her mother to Florida. Gabi realises that he is in Florida to find Marta, and Vivo shows Gabi the song Andrés wrote for her before. Gabi tries to convince her mom to take her to Marta Sandoval`s concert, but to no avail, so she orders tickets to Miami so she can see her for her final concert.

She is confronted by Sand Dollar girl scouts while she is on her way to the bus to Miami, which she misses. Gabi is confronted by the girl scout troops after being separated, who threaten to get rid of Andrés’s song. Gabi sings the song Andres wrote, Vivo plays the melody.  Finally in Miami, Vivo delivers the song to Marta, and Gabi`s mother discovers the truth and drives to Marta`s concert. 

The musical track is the greatest thing about the movie, as well as Lin Manuel Miranda voicing Vivo. The songs sung by Vivo incorporate Lin’s famous techniques seen in his songs. Even if you never heard the song being sung, it would be obvious to tell that the songs were written by Lin Manuel Miranda.

One thing that was refreshing about this movie was the setting. It may just be me, but it was one of the first times I’ve seen an animated movie set in Cuba, even for a short time in the film. The Cuban dialect is very similar to the way my parents will sometimes talk in Spanish, and that was one part I personally enjoyed. Gabi’s mother, a Cuban American, is not a stereotypical strict Latina mom. Even though sometimes, people do fit certain stereotypes, it’s good that there is some deviation from them, but she felt flat as a character, so the representation wasn’t as good as I thought when looking back. Also, another plot hole I noticed was that Cuba is a self-described communist country that would never let its citizens freely leave the country unless a family member requested it or if the authorities gave an approval. 

The movie does well with its emotional appeal. Especially with its track and some parts of the storytelling. As I was watching the movie, I could even feel a connection to Vivo. This is a very important part in any storytelling, right next to the plot. If a movie manages to establish some kind of emotional connection, it might even be a compelling story in itself. 

Try as we may, not every movie is perfect, so there are some things I have to point out. Even if it sounds like nitpicking, Vivo’s character design is one thing that bothered me. He might be cute, but his design was not accurate to the way kinkajous look in real life. He looked more like a macaque or a gibbon than a honey bear. Kinkajous are not primates, but actually a relative of the raccoon and another South American animal called the coati. 

Something less nitpicky to point out is the plot. The plot felt generic at times that aren’t filled with colorful visuals, scenery, or music. At the point in the movie where Andres’s song has been ruined in the water while in the Everglades, Vivo starts to think that all hope is lost, and that the song is lost. What I feel is a bit forced and a bit cliche is how Vivo finds the “silver lining”, since he knew the melody of the song and Gabi knew the lyrics. 

Gabi’s character felt a little two dimensional. Throughout the movie, she remains static and has no real character development. Her relationship with the Sand Dollar troops adds nothing to her overall arc as a character either, and it doesn’t really go anywhere. 

While taking notes for this review, I managed to write down the positives and negatives of this movie. The visuals at times were very bright and vivid, like at the end where Andres dances with Marta at the concert, and the visuals were one thing I liked about this movie. Another thing I have to mention was just how much emotion this movie can have in some parts, which is important in many films in some way.

Even though the positives outweigh the negatives for me, it’s important to watch the movie so you can decide which ones outweigh the other, or if they don’t.