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'Vivo': Movie Review

Kimberly Carr


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The opening scene of Vivo invites you to join in a celebration of Cuban culture and music. We meet the title character Vivo and his owner Andrés as they begin their performance in the town center. Bold colors and vibrant beats set the tone for this story centered on second chances. I didn’t know what to expect from Sony, since Pixar set the bar high for computer animated features, but the animation in Vivo is beautifully rendered and incredibly detailed.

Vivo is a kinkajou, a rain forest honey bear who was rescued by Andrés. Their bond is strong, as each has found a friendship and kinship through music. But, it is the relationship between Andrés and Marta, the love of his life, that spurs the mission in which Vivo finds himself leading with the help of Gabi, an outspoken tween who revels in her uniqueness and attacks life with bouncy energy.

Of course, every adventure movie must have enemies that attempt to block the main characters from achieving their goal. Which, interestingly in Vivo, include the bullies in Gabi’s environmentally conscious Sand Dollar Girls troop who at first are more concerned about Vivo’s protection than Gabi’s welfare.

Films geared toward kids often use the plot device of inept adults who ruin kids’ lives and must be rebelled against. In Vivo, Gabi does break rules and take ill-advised risks, but her mom is not portrayed as an out-of-touch fossil. The script honors their relationship as mother and daughter as the two navigate a difficult situation.

Another refreshing element was the lack of content sexualizing children, or assigning a sexuality to young or teen characters. As moral boundaries ebb and flow in pop culture and especially entertainment geared toward kids (Disney springs to mind), I was apprehensive about how Gabi’s world would be portrayed. However, I could find nothing objectionable in the dialogue or animation.

Fans of Lin-Manuel Miranda (Vivo) will enjoy Vivo’s soundtrack. With his signature style (think “Hamilton”), Miranda produced songs that honor the culture which serves as a central character in Vivo. From Cuba to Miami, viewers are treated to the talents of Gloria Estefan (Marta) and Juan de Marcos Gonzalez (Andrés), both Cuba-born and both pioneers in their musical genres.

Particular favorites among the original soundtrack are “It’s Not Too Late” and “One More Song” which serves as the inspiring anthem of the film. Kids will likely enjoy Gabi’s personal anthem, “My Own Drum” (it’s still stuck in my head), but hopefully adults will be able to join in on the fun even after the 14th time on repeat.

Faith Points:

Identity in Christ

Gabi acts and dresses differently than her Sand Dollar troop. Celebrate what makes you unique and thank God for His hand in creating you.

“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.”

Love Others

Several characters in Vivo denied themselves in order to love and support others. At the same time, Gabi and Vivo faced obstacles rooted in misunderstandings and bullying. We are meant to share the love of Christ and love others as He would.

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”

Honor Your Parents (grandparents, elders, caretakers)

If only real life was like a cartoon, then mistakes could be erased and endings would be changed.  Gabi and Vivo’s adventure was fraught with danger and could have been avoided. Listen to the elders in your life. They have wisdom to share and want to help.

“Hear, my son, your father's instruction, and forsake not your mother's teaching, for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck.”

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