I think a children’s movie is about the only context in which it is acceptable to use a jungle raccoon’s bandana to wipe your eyes. I don’t know what it says about me that that was the part of Vivo that I found the hardest to suspend my disbelief for. Hankies aside, Vivo is a sweet journey from Cuba to Miami focused on friendship and good music.
In this animated feature, Vivo (Lin-Manuel Miranda), a musical kinkajou, sets out of a quest to carry a song by his late human caretaker, Andres (Juan de Marcos González), to the man’s long-lost love, famous singer Marta Sandoval (Gloria Estefan). Unfortunately, to do so, he has to stow away to Key West, Florida with Gabi (Ynairaly Simo), Andres’s chaotic great niece. The unlikely team must find their way to Marta’s farewell concert in Miami, with Gabi’s mother, Rosa (Zoe Saldana) in hot pursuit.
At first, Vivo seems awfully similar to In the Heights. Then, it takes a pretty formulaic approach to the story, hitting all the expected beats for a children’s movie, from a gang of girl scouts to a heartwarming revelation about a deceased parent. The misfits, human and animal, make friends and sing and dance together. Teamwork makes the dream work. But the kinkajou is really, really cute and that makes up for an awful lot.
The music for Vivo is also fun and vibrant. Sometimes it is very evocative of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s other work, but it also has songs that use a mixture of Latin rhythms, pop, and even autotune to create a soundtrack that gives the characters distinct sounds. In particular, the musical play between Vivo and Gabi helps portray their generational differences and how the characters come together as a team.
Vivo is not especially creative, but it is a joyful, enjoyable romp about friendship, lost love, and duty. I recommend it, and not only for families with kids. Did I mention the kinkajou is really cute?
Streaming on Netflix, Vivo was written by Kirk DeMicco, who directed with Brandon Jeffords, and Quiara Alegria Hudes and features original music by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Alex Lacamoire. It runs 1 hour 35 minutes and is rated PG.
My beloved mother suggested this next movie. She wanted to watch it mostly because it was set in Ireland, but also because we are suckers for romantic comedies. Available to rent on Amazon Prime, Finding You follows college student Finely Sinclair (Rose Reid) who takes a semester abroad in Ireland after not getting into a music conservatory. Hoping to connect with her late brother and work on her audition piece, Finley stays with the same darling Irish family who her brother stayed with years before. And on the plane ride over, she was seated next to movie star Beckett Rush (Jedidiah Goodacre), who, as luck would have it, is staying at the Bed & Breakfast run by her host family. And as part of her Irish Studies course, she is paired with a nursing home resident to spend time with—the surly Cathleen Sweeney (Vanessa Redgrave). Naturally, Finley has to juggle a romance with the movie star and win over the grumpy old lady.
Despite its somewhat over-loaded and absurd plot, Finding You is really charming and wholesome. The acting is pretty generic, as is the whole aesthetic of the project. In fact, the two women involved in the main love triangle look so similar that at first I thought they were the same person. Despite these obvious flaws, the story has enough heart and the actors have enough chemistry that I still found myself invested in the outcome of the story.
Spoiler alert: my biggest complaint with this movie is that Finley’s poor brother—who died helping refugees—serves as nothing more than a plot point to get Finley and Beckett in the same place again. He deserved more, writers. Get it together.
So, although I do not think that Jedidiah Goodacre is not handsome enough as “the world’s biggest movie star,” he and this movie are charming enough for a Friday night. This movie falls squarely in the camp of romcoms that are not technically good, but are good in a way that makes them comfort food. See also: Lucky Number Seven, Just My Luck, 27 Dresses, et al.
Finding You was written and directed by Brian Baugh, based on the book There You’ll Find Me by Jenny B. Jones. It is rated PG and runs 1 hour 49 minutes.
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