Running time: 95 minutes. Rated PG (some thematic elements and light action.) On Netflix.
Remember when Ryan Seacrest suddenly appeared on our TVs in the afternoon and prime time while hosting a radio show and podcast and ringing New Year’s Eve – sometimes all in one day?
Lin-Manuel Miranda has to go to bed every night and keep whispering, “I want to be like Ryan Seacrest”. The “Hamilton” composer has released three films in the past twelve months and completed another season of “His Dark Materials” for HBO. Recently he said he was working on a new Broadway musical. What’s next? Do you sell a jewelry collection on QVC?
Amazingly, most of Miranda’s endless string of projects are good to great, no vanilla corporate junk, and the cute new animated film “Vivo” is no exception.
If you know “Hamilton” – who doesn’t? – then you know the musical design of the film. Miranda composed the songs and raps his characteristic wordy melodies as an orange monkey-like fur ball called Kinkajou – Vivo.
With an adorable hat, little Vivo appears in a Cuban town square, plays the recorder – that’s clarinet for second-class idlers – and dances around with his older owner Andrés to earn money. We hear Vivo speak English; everyone else hears sweet howls and purrs.
When Andrés dies unexpectedly – a sublime direction by Kirk DeMicco – Vivo sneaks into the luggage of his niece Gabi (Ynairaly Simo) to go to Miami and write a song for Andrés’ long-lost love, a famous singer named Marta (Gloria Estefan) .
Lin-Manuel Miranda speaks Vivo, left, who goes on a life-changing journey with her new friend Gabi (Ynairaly Simo) in “Vivo”. SONY PICTURES ANIMATION
While Vivo’s musical flair is rooted in traditional Cuban styles like Mambo, Gabi is a kid from TikTok who loves loud, pulsating, electronic beats. Tonal contrasts, the back of the two heads at the beginning. But they soon become friends and their adventure takes them to Florida – Whoopee? – which is animated in phosphorescent neon colors.
“Vivo” is a hearty piece with catchy songs and a much more coherent plot than Miranda’s “Moana”, which gets tangled in the middle. Sure, it could use a little more depth, but in the children’s film genre you could do a lot worse.
I’m not always a fan of Miranda’s acting, but something about a singing and dancing mini-mammal suits him perfectly. Well, better than a British chimney sweep in Mary Poppins Returns anyway.