¡Presentando Vivo! – A Review of Sony’s First Animated Musical

Leonardo LopezFeatures Editor

Directed by Kirk DeMicco, Vivo is Sony Pictures Animation’s latest feature film that was released on August 6th, 2021. It is exclusive to the Netflix streaming service.

The film begins in Havana, Cuba where an elderly musician named Andrès and his pet Kinkajou, Vivo, perform in the local plaza. One afternoon, Andrès receives a letter from Marta Sandoval, his old bandmate and friend, which informs him of her retirement from her music career and her final show at the Mambo Cabana in Miami, Florida.

Wanting to express his romantic feelings towards Marta with a song that he had written for her, Andrès is filled with delight with the thought of reuniting with his old partner. In contrast, Vivo, content with the life he lives in Cuba, becomes anxious and reluctant in helping Andrès. That evening, the annoyed Vivo abandons Andrès unable to understand his owner’s perspective until he recalls how they first met, and the impact one song can have on a life. The following morning, as he returns home, Vivo is horrified and heartbroken with the discovery that Andrès has passed away in his sleep.

Vivo finds Andrès’ niece Rosa and her eccentric daughter Gabi at the musician’s funeral service that night. The following morning, Vivo vows to his late friend that he will deliver his song to Marta and decides to stow away with Gabi and Rosa who are heading back to their home in Key West, Florida.

The film has a star-studded cast with Lin-Manuel Miranda of Hamilton fame leading the helm as songwriter of 11 songs as well as the voice of the titular animal. Other musical icons also provided their voices for this film such as Buena Vista Social Club member Juan de Marcos González as Andrès and Gloria Estefan as Marta. Other cast members include Zoe Saldana, Leslie David Baker, Michael Rooker and newcomer Ynairaly Simo.

The animation is stunning. From the backgrounds that seem almost photo-realistic to the minor animation details of musicians playing their instruments, the film’s visuals are as elegant as the characters are lively. Additionally, there are brief segments throughout the film that utilize traditional 2-dimensional methods. Although you recognize the stylistic change, the characters are detailed and filled with depth to the point where you can be forgiven into thinking the animation continues to be 3-dimensional.

The film also delivers a rich soundtrack consisting of a diversity of musical genres. The music blends traditional Cuban music with contemporary hip-hop and pop. What I found remarkable is that with such variety that ranges from different time periods, not a single song fell out of place. A personal favorite is Gloria Estefan’s “Presente” which reminded me of the work of Celia Cruz with its Latin jazz rhythm.

In short, Vivo provides a heartwarming story filled with audible and visual delight. Vivo blends the spirit of Hamilton with the Cultures of Cuba and South Florida. Whether you adore musical theater, have cultural connections to Cuba, are a lover of animated films or just a casual viewer looking for family-friendly entertainment, Vivo is a charming film that I encourage you to check out.

Sony’s ‘Vivo’ / Image Courtesy of The California Times

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