"Vivo" is a film that's filled with pure joy right from the start. This new film is the latest animated film from Sony Pictures Animation, the studio that has shot up to become one of the biggest competitors in the animation scene alongside Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar with films like "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse" and "The Mitchells Vs. The Machines" as well as from Lin-Manuel Miranda, the musical genius behind Broadway smashes like "Hamilton" and "In the Heights" as well as the animated musical "Moana" and the two work together like pure magic. Watching this film made me think back to the classic animated musicals that have come out before and I found myself enamored from start to finish. It's a real summer treat that I had fun watching.
In the sunny streets of Havana, a kinkajou named Vivo (Lin-Manuel Miranda) and his owner Andrés (Juan de Marcos González) have spent their days in the square entertaining people with music. One afternoon, Andrés receives a letter out of the blue from his old partner Marta (Gloria Estefan) who is preparing for retirement and throwing a farewell concert in Miami and inviting him to come. Andrés has plans to bring to Marta an old song showing his love for her, but he sadly passes in his sleep the day before he is to head to Miami. Determined to have his late owner's song heard, Vivo stows away in a suitcase belonging to Andrés' grand-niece Gabi (Ynairaly Simo) and is flown to Key West. After showing Gabi the song, the duo set off for Miami determined to hand Marta the song before she starts her farewell concert.
This film was simply a treat to watch. I read that Lin-Manuel Miranda had approached DreamWorks to make this film about a decade ago though it never came to be due to the studio being in a huge financial jam and passed over the film in favor of other animated films. However, I'm so glad Sony Pictures Animation scooped it up and gave it new life as it quickly became one of my new favorite animated films from the studio. The story isn't anything huge, but it works wonderfully for a musical. We've seen a story where a character travels from home to give someone a present before and while it does straightforwardly present the story, it avoids a lot of the cliches that have bogged down other films and keeps it afloat with some excellent energy. It's apparent right from the start as we open in the Havana square and see Vivo and Andrés perform together and that energy is there throughout the entire film and never lets up. The only time the story does take a slight stumble is when Vivo and Gabi go through the Florida Everglades to get to Miami where it makes some detours with a couple of the animals living in the swamp though it wasn't enough to ruin the film by any means. In lesser hands, this film could've ended up really cliched and irritating though Sony and director Kirk DeMicco keep the energy throughout. It also leads me into talking about the animation which is easily one of the biggest highlights of the film. This film looks absolutely spectacular and is filled with so much life and color. The locations all pop out on the screen from the hustle and bustle of Havana, the cozy nature of Key West, the dangerous and vast Florida Everglades, and the energy and mayhem of Miami. Every location looks like a stylized postcard you might find from any one of these locations and it's simply joyous. I also really loved the cinematography and shot structure that was courteous of famed cinematographer Roger Deakins. He's helped make animated films look amazing with "Wall-E", the "How to Train Your Dragon" trilogy, and "Rango" being fine examples of that, and here is no exception. It's apparent right from the start with the one-shot take of the musical number One of a Kind and his precision helps make the musical numbers really have a lot of life to them. I guess that also should lead me into talking about the musical numbers which are the second biggest highlight of the film. Lin-Manuel Miranda works his magic on this film big time here and he gives every song a lot of life and rhythm and it just has so much fun to it. Songs like One of a Kind, My Own Drum, and Keep the Beat are easily among my favorites as well as the grand song Inside Your Heart. Every single one of the songs has energy and passion behind them and just shows what a mastermind Miranda is. If he doesn't receive an Oscar this year for either this film, "In the Heights", or the upcoming "Encanto", I will be truly surprised. Speaking of him, let's get to the characters. They all work very well. Miranda brings a special charm to Vivo that makes him work well off the other characters even if they can't understand him since he's an animal and he and Gabi share a special bond together as they get to Miami. I'm also glad her character didn't end up becoming as annoying as she could've been especially with how over the top My Own Drum is as a musical number. Even smaller characters work well with Andrés and Marta's bond being the special glue that holds the film in place.
In all, "Vivo" is simply a delight to watch. The story is simple but works well for a musical, the animation is amazingly colorful and full of life, the characters are sweet and fun to watch, and the songs are energetic and brimming with passion. This is truly a delightful animated film to watch and I can't recommend it enough. Alongside Pixar's "Luca", this is one of the finest animated films that has come out this summer and another triumph from Sony Pictures Animation. I guarantee the rhythm they'll bring to future animated films is gonna be special.