Animated movies usually grab my attention out of all other types of media. There is usually just a lot more to love and observe the ways different animation studios create their movies to make them special. At least that’s how I approach them, and most of the time, I’m disappointed. The overall stigma with cartoons or anything animated is that it’s targeted at children, making it hard to watch these shows/movies without cringing from the lack of effort put into making them more entertaining than just a bunch of moving colors. And there are a LOT of movies that come off as only generic, so unless it’s established with a popular property or a well known studio, I stray away from it.
So when I initially saw Vivo, I looked away without a second thought. From the art style alone, I felt it was going to be another forgettable animated experience. But weeks later, I was watching Youtube and a song caught my ear. It was a small snippet with a catchy tempo, and when I looked it up, I was surprised to see it came from Vivo. That night I decided to take the time to see what this movie had to offer, and as you can probably tell from the title, it blew my expectations out of the park. But maybe I should explain what “Vivo” is…
Vivo is an animated film named after a kinkajou travelling with Gabi, a rebellious child who wants to help Andres, who is her relative and also the person who takes care of Vivo, send a love song to his old friend. A simple story that really brings together a mix of short but lovable moments and most importantly, music! The story takes place in the Caribbean region, Havana, Cuba and Florida, and hones in on the importance of its culture to the music. But regardless of all of the details, I have got to tell you which ones I love this most about this film.
The music is a big part of my love for this movie. This is one of the few animated musicals that every piece astounds me. Every major song from “One of A Kind” to “Inside Your Heart” is a complete masterpiece from start to finish, and they ALL are catchy as hell! There’s hardly a place in the soundtrack lacking emotion and fun, and for that I commend it. Not only does the music sound great, it always fits right into the situation that’s going on within the context of the movie. And both the visuals and the music carry one another very well, especially when the characters are singing. For example, Gabi’s song “My Own Drum” is the perfect encapsulation of her character. Before that song, we only met her a few times and don’t know much about her other than her wanting to take care of Vivo. But with the song she sings, we get to see how she sees the world. Through a dream-like sequence, we see digital visuals around her to represent the music she’s into and having her and Vivo have big parade balloons to show how much she values their friendship. And you also learn about how reckless and what she’s insecure about. It’s done so cleverly too, she slides in the line “I’ve got my own seat on the bus, I’ve always been a “Me” not an “Us”. Giving the audience just a little more history on who she is. She also feels entirely organic the entire way through. She feels to be one of the most human adaptations of a child in media I’ve ever seen, which is so impressive.
An interesting concept this movie has is that Vivo can understand humans, but they only hear monkey sounds. However, whenever Vivo is singing with anyone, they can understand each other and talk to each other perfectly. There aren’t any clear acknowledgements of it and it isn’t even a major part of the movie, like there isn’t some weird magical spell but it just happens. At first glance, this seems weird, but I believe this is a signifying detail that when there’s music, Vivo and his comrades are speaking the same language. Which is just a brilliant detail to have. They could’ve easily made the generic excuse of Vivo having the ability to talk, but made this decision instead.
While overall the story itself isn’t as compelling as the music, it definitely holds its weight to where each song matters just as much as they should. A lot of qualities this movie has are all inspiring and I find myself re-watching some parts of it casually just because they really catch your eye. So I highly recommend this movie to anyone for any children and just anyone who loves animated movies. Y’know… like me!