PG, because G-rated movies don't really exist anymore. Like many kids' movies, there's some peril and some scary parts. I guess kids just like to have a little bit of scary which lead to nightmares and then they can't sleep in their beds anymore. One of the key themes in the film is how children deal with mortality and grief, so be ready to confront that major bummer as a parent. There also is a child-equivalent of a Karen who eventually becomes a good guy, but she's definitely harshing the vibe of the whole movie. PG.
DIRECTORS: Kirk DeMicco and Brandon Jeffords
My biggest question is, "When was this movie made?" because Lin-Manuel Miranda coming out with two baller musicals around the same time is sus. I know, he wrote In the Heights a million years ago and it takes a long time for an animated feature to see the light of day. This isn't even a criticism, but it feels like Vivo might have been in production for a while and it's finally just getting its due now.
Yeah, I'm pretty basic. I really like Lin-Manuel Miranda. I never really got on the Hamilton train, but In the Heights really impressed me. I'm the guy in the family who often shows off trailers because that's the way my brain is wired on the Internet. These trailers just find me. Blame the algorithm or whatever, but I tend to be the one to say that Lin-Manuel Miranda is doing something new. And, seriously, Miranda has the way about songwriting that makes the movies super intriguing. I know that he had a pretty strong hand in the Moana songs, but Vivo feels like he was just given carte blanche to do whatever he wanted to with they lyrics because the songs in this movie really stay within his comfort zone. If you hadn't seen any of his plays or movies and just hit shuffle on Hamilton, In the Heights, and Vivo, you wouldn't necessarily know which song came from which musical. That's great. He knows what people like and he keeps making that thing. My wife, who is the Miranda nut in the family, probably watched the movie the least. But the second we finished the movie, she put on the soundtrack and I wouldn't be surprised if it becomes part of the regular rotation in our house.
I'm going to point out my biggest criticism first because that's what I always seem to do. It's easy to write about the things that don't work than the things that do. Things that work are very "I know it when I see it". But things that don't work tend to be easily defended.[ I kind of wish that Vivo didn't depend on the kids' movie formula. Adventure and peril don't necessarily gel with the message of the film. I'm going to use Up as an example. Up has a really memorable first act. You know what I'm talking about. It's the scene that crushes all of us. It's the saddest scene in kids' cinema possibly in history, and that's including Bambi's mother. There's the bonding with Russell, which is great and the house flying. Cool. But when Carl has to fight dogs and an evil old man, it just feels like filler. I don't know if Vivo and Gabi have to fight off a tropical storm or a snake to get the message across. Just getting lost fits better with the theme than fighting Michael Rooker, the snake. It's fun and exciting, but it also is a criminal distraction from the main story.
But besides that, the movie is fantastic. I keep coming back to this well because the movies I watch keep coming back to it, but I can't help but fall in love with paternal grieving stories. I'm the guy who keeps saying that pets aren't kids because I'm a broken old man who keeps a blog and is cynical as get out. But with a case like Vivo, I can see where the parent / child relationship exists. I'm still grumpy about "fur babies", but in this case Vivo is anthropomorphized and sentient, so I suppose that this is a different case. My wife was shocked that Andres passes away. (She did pay attention for a little while.) I knew that he had to. But I didn't really see how Vivo and Gabi were going to have an adventure without Andres alive to be there. When you think about it --and this is a really cold read of the film --the stakes are remarkably low considering how much danger that the two protagonists are put through. While we should be respectful when it comes to the wishes of the dead, technically Vivo could deal with his grief in a different way.
Because a person's final request isn't for themselves. When Andres wants Marta to hear the final song, it isn't for selfish reasons. However, Vivo wants to share this song with Marta as a means of giving Marta catharsis. The story of them journeying to give her the song is a form of that catharsis. Admittedly, her receiving the song and singing it at the final performance is a way better ending for all involved, especially the audience, it does feel a bit Hollywood. (Note: Marta figured out Vivo's story super quickly and good for her, because I wasn't ready for the slow unpacking of the events of the film.)
But this all leads to Gabi. I am still unpacking how I feel about Gabi. Gabi is a bit much. She's supposed to be a bit much. Vivo's frustration with her is grating to us because he is our avatar, despite being a kinkajou. But the real issue I have with Gabi is that she's vicariously trying to take ownership of Vivo's loss. She's a kid. There's very little that is her fault in this storyline. But she genuinely didn't know Andres. She knows of him as a relation, but never really met him. Instead, she adopts a false sadness that brings attention to herself. It's why her behavior in the light of all this stuff comes across as grating. Her investment is false. But to view the same thing from a more positive perspective, Gabi is fundamentally empathetic. Her immaturity causes her to make her share of fauxs pas, but her intentions are ultimately noble. She never really has that vulnerable moment that gives her the clarity about her life, but that's the role of Vivo. Vivo is the dynamic character, learning about the greater world over the course of his journey. It's Gabi who remains mostly static. Sure, she accepts the Sand Dollar girls as flawed individuals, but she still holds herself in a different category as them.
I don't think I've ever seen a villain like the Sand Dollar tribe. Becky sucks, but is kind of right in a lot of the cases. Becky represents those who ride the high horse, but don't know how to effectively communicate concerns. I know that people named Karen hate this term, but Becky is a Karen. Gabi continually shows herself to be irresponsible. She has a dead pet collection due to her own neglect. She actively avoids commitments and flaunts her rudeness to these girls. When Becky sees that Gabi has failed to live up to her commitments and places this animal's life in danger, maybe she should speak up. But I think that we're all aware that she's gross about the way that she does it. She ultimately becomes a good guy, but that's because the movie really needed her to become a good guy in that moment, despite the fact that there might not be an epiphany to be had. Her only major shift is that she owes Gabi one, but that doesn't mean that she should help her keep a kinkajou when it probably wouldn't survive there.
But the movie is actually pretty great. Sure, the adventure feels really forced, but it keeps kids' attentions. I was in it for the great music. I have a feeling that I'll be better about knowing the Vivo lyrics better than I know In the Heights, where I can only jump in on the "Good Morning, Uznavi" part.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.