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Vivo: Lin-Manuel Miranda’s magic touch lifts Netflix tale to greater Heights

Vivo (7+, 95mins) Directed by Kirk DeMicco and Brandon Jeffords ****
Hey, ladies and gentlemen, the show is right this way, right this way. Hey, we have prepared for you, a dazzling display, right this way. So gather round my friends, and here we go. Presenting, the one and only Vivo.
Lin-Manuel Mirandas lyrics, trademark staccato delivery and innate sense of the rhythms of Latino life lift what might otherwise have been a fairly forgettable animated adventure.
He voices the one and only Vivo, a mango and music-loving kikajou (aka a honey bear) who has, for many years, performed a double-act in a Havana square with Andres (Juan de Marcos González), the man who rescued him from the jaws of urban predators. So in-sync are the pair, that they finish each others music phrases, drawing huge crowds and earning enough money to allow them to live happily together in a nearby apartment.
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However, their perfect life is disrupted when Andres receives an unexpected letter. Its from the world-renowned singer Marta Sandoval (Gloria Estefan).
Preparing for retirement, she plans to play one last concert in Miami and, inspired by the memories of the beautiful music they made together when young, she would love him to join her if its not too late.
While the whole community chips in to ensure Andres makes his date, Vivo cant understand why he would leave Cuba even for just a few days.
Lin-Manuel Miranda voices the eponymous Vivo.
Thats when Andres reveals the reason why he never told Marta how he really felt about her, before she left for America some 60 years ago. I worried that if I told her what was in my heart, she might not follow hers. Instead, I poured all my love and sadness into a song that was too painful for me to play and that she would never hear.
Reflecting on those words, and determined to help Andres deliver his love letter, Vivo softens his stance and vows to accompany him. However, fate has other ideas.
Parents be warned although this is mostly very much a family friendly tale, there will be tears before bedtime. Co-director Kirk DeMicco (The Croods) and In the Heights co-writer Quiara Alegria Hudes screenplay doesnt shy away from the darker and sadder moments in life, knockabout comedic moments sitting alongside meditations on mortality, immigration and vaccinations.
This is a film that clearly has Pixar aspirations, and there are elements of Soul, Coco and Up in this storys DNA. The visuals are solid, rather than spectacular, although Vivo himself is beautifully brought to life, jaunty hat and all, while the free-spirited Gabi (newcomer Ynairaly Simo) is a refreshing change from the usual cookie-cutter animated heroine.
Parents be warned although Vivo is mostly very much a family friendly tale, there will be tears before bedtime.
And although, some of the plotting and support characters dont quite reach the heights of those movies, as a musical, Mirandas genius once again comes to the fore. As well as the perfectly-pitched mood-setting opening number One of a Kind, theres also the heart-rending One More Song, the Lizzo-esque My Own Drum, the soaring ballad Loves Gonna Pick You Up and the fitting finale Inside Your Heart, a tune which showcases the magnificent, distinctive vocals of the now 63-year-old Estefan.
A decade in the making Miranda first pitched this to Hollywood after the success of the stage version of In the HeightsVivo would make a terrific double-bill with the magnificent recent movie adaptation of that Broadway hit.
Vivo will begin streaming on Netflix on the evening of August more

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