Vivo – Review, from Cuba to Miami with a secret dream
Here is our review of Vivo, a new animated film available on Netflx born from the mind behind Hamilton and In The Heights.
Good news for fans of Lin-Manuel Miranda: we have reached the tip of the iceberg of his unstoppable authorial parable. With two important titles among those distributed in the hall and on the platforms this summer, we can speak without uncertainties of peak visibility, to the delight of the most ardent followers of the creator of the “musi-cult” Hamilton. The first of the two summer films by Miranda, In The Heights (renamed Dreaming In New York Here With Us), he brought the first theatrical success of the Broadway prodigy to the big screen with vitality. The second, on the other hand, is the result of a more extensive and uneven process: the cartoon I live, of which we propose the review, coming up on Netflix next 6 August and born from an idea that Miranda had back in 2009, then taken in hand by the historical author of the High School Musical trilogy Peter Barsocchini.
The incipit, as for In The Heights, has the noisy streets of one in the background Latin locality: Havana, to be precise, where on everyone’s lips there is only the sparkling musical duo composed of Andrés, elderly musician, e I live, a very tender little boy (or kinkajou, in English) who animates the squares and streets of the Cuban capital together with his talented pop. The festive existence of the two is punctually upset by the arrival of a letter from the famous singer Marta Sandoval, former flame of Andrés, who asks the man to join him in You love me to play one last, passionate song together. Just when Vivo decides to help Andrés in the enterprise, however, a sudden accident forces him to undertake the journey alone: the little animal thus joins the family of Andrés’s niece, the rowdy and misunderstood Gabi, to get to Florida and fulfill his old friend’s impossible dream.
Given the prolonged gestation, it was physiological to wait for Vivo with a certain curiosity, waiting to discover how Miranda had been able to infuse her creative personality into an animated product. Those who had imagined substantial novelties from Miranda’s first animated musical are therefore destined to be disappointed. The premise, one of the simplest and most linear, is a hyper-classic mix of the best that animated cinema – the one by Pixar in particular – has been able to tell us in the last decade: talking animals with anthropomorphic traits and behaviors ( and the mind immediately goes to Ratatouille); a colorful and catchy soundtrack; the cultural element of Latin American inspiration, as the well-established “Mirandian” tradition dictates; a final touch, always welcome, of more adult family melodrama, with a painful and unexpected twist to move the story.
In short, there is everything that an animated film should have in 2021 to generate enough interest in the young audience of the platforms, with a wink to adults as well. To coordinate what is in effect an explosion of color, told through a bright chromatic range, there is Kirk DeMicco (former director of The Croods), who conducts this passionate fiesta with grace and aesthetic taste – a final foray into 2D animation, now almost permanently obsolete, manages to get straight to the heart. The rhythm of the story never drops, and the story moves step by step with the diversified sounds of the score, co-written by Miranda with Grammy-winning musician Alex Lacamoire – the same duo behind the success of Hamilton and In The Heights. The qualitative fracture with the aforementioned models, and which we will take into account for the final evaluation in the review, opens up however when Vivo tries to go deeper, trying to draw from the folds of the story a discourse on the acceptance of death and elaboration of mourning – an issue that, according to what Miranda himself reported in the interviews, represented the heart of the original concept.
With the explicit goal of continuing what Coco and The Book of Life had done before, Vivo therefore tries to tell, through a story about life, a tale of growth on death processing. The problem is that, net of shared intentions, the characters told by DeMicco and Miranda are not strong enough to drive a complex discourse like the one the authors want to do. Also thanks to the opening a a visibly lower target than that of the films that preceded it, the result is a very nice film and undeniably perfect for a smaller audience, but also simpler, more linear and superficial than those that Miranda & Co had in mind during the making. But in the great sea of summer distributions it doesn’t matter: on balance what matters is the fiesta of colors and energy. Gentle and carefree entertainment which, given the season, can only be welcomed.