Vivo perched on Gabi’s arm, the two now close friends at the end of the film.

If You Loved ‘Coco’, Give Lin-Manuel Miranda’s ‘Vivo’ a Watch!

(Spoiler warning for major plot points.)

From the same man who brought us In the Heights and Hamilton comes Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Vivo (2021) on Netflix! The story follows the journey of the titular character by the same name who is a musical kinkajou. Taken in by his human companion Andrés, Vivo learns to play different instruments and the two perform together in the town square of Havana, Cuba. When a letter from an old friend and music partner of Andrés comes, he reveals that he loved her and never got to confess. Andrés even wrote a song about his feelings, and through a series of events, it’s up to Vivo to deliver it.

A still from 'Vivo' of Vivo the monkey on Andres's shoulder as he plays guitar
Vivo and Andrés

My first surprise from Vivo is how Andrés dies early on in the film. That caught me off guard! Based on what I knew of the movie, I assumed he’d be a main character throughout. I think this was ultimately a good narrative decision. It adds a bittersweet undertone throughout the story beats, and stands as a connection between Vivo (Lin-Manuel Miranda) and Gabi (Ynairaly Simo), as she’s also lost someone close to her — her father. Gabi herself was far less irritating than I anticipated. I fully expected her to solely be a jokey comic relief archetype, but she does have depth. Sure, she’s has a big personality and is outgoing, but she can be taken seriously when the scene calls for it.  And despite being displayed throughout most of the movie to be untalented, Gabi has decent vocals, which was a nice detail. I liked how as their relationship developed, Vivo eventually taught her to have more rhythm. It’s a nice way to further establish their bond outside of both of them experiencing loss.

As can be inferred, just as many other of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s properties. Vivo is thoroughly musical, with many songs throughout its run time. Something I appreciated about the movie is how the lyrics are actually understandable. The characters sing fast, but I still received what they were trying to convey. This was a problem I had with Hamilton — I could barely keep up with what was being said and plot details were lost on me.

An example of how the visual technique changes during musical numbers, the animation alters from CGI two a more hand-drawn looking style.
An example of how the visual technique changes during musical numbers, the animation alters from CGI to a more hand-drawn looking style.

It was also enjoyable how throughout many of the music numbers, animation suddenly became stylized! The 3-D animation is polished and smooth enough, but it’s not as impressive compared to bigger companies like Pixar or Dreamworks. However, the instances where the graphics are experimented with in 2-D or neon colors getting incorporated were exciting to look at!

Between the emotional aspects and Vivo’s engrossment of Hispanic culture through music and language, I am similarly reminded of Pixar’s Coco! Despite having different plots, the films share a comparable aura to them — catchy songs, emotional scenes, primarily Hispanic characters. I personally view Coco as the first superior film (it’s hard to beat Pixar at their best after all!) but if you enjoyed what made that masterpiece so great you’ll likely find enjoyment in Vivo!

Netflix’s promotional poster for ‘Vivo’.
Netflix’s promotional poster for ‘Vivo’

I rate Vivo an Incluvie score of 5/5! The narrative has a very authentic incorporation of Hispanic Culture. Women are actively present and important to the story! I think that Gabi as the secondary main character makes for a good role model for young girls. She is passionate and has many interests.

I rate Vivo overall with a score of 4/5! The movie has an investing story, a wonderful soundtrack, and interesting visuals! My only criticism is after the call to action of Andrés’s death, the plot is kind of predictable if you’re an older watcher. However, it’s still a fun ride!


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