Review: Lin-Manuel Miranda nails cuteness as a musical critter in Vivo


Running time: 95 minutes. Rated PG (some thematic elements and mild action.) On Netflix.

Remember when Ryan Seacrest was suddenly on our TVs in the afternoon and prime time, while also hosting a radio show and a podcast and ringing in New Year’s Eve — sometimes all in one day?

Lin-Manuel Miranda must go to bed every night whispering “I want to be just like Ryan Seacrest” over and over again. The “Hamilton” composer has released three movies in the past twelve months, and finished another season of “His Dark Materials” for HBO. Recently he said he’s working on a new Broadway musical. What’s next? Selling a jewelry collection on QVC?

Mindbogglingly, most of Miranda’s endless string of projects are good-to-great, not vanilla corporate garbage, and the sweet new animated movie “Vivo” is no exception.

If you know “Hamilton” — who doesn’t? — then you’ll be familiar with the film’s musical stylings. Miranda has composed the songs and raps his signature wordy tunes as an orange monkey-like furball called a Kinkajou — Vivo.

Wearing an adorable hat, little Vivo performs in a Cuban town square, playing the recorder — that’s clarinet-for-slackers from second grade — and dancing around with his elderly owner Andrés to make money. We get to hear Vivo speak English; everybody else hears cute howls and purrs.

When Andrés unexpectedly dies — a sublime piece of direction by Kirk DeMicco — Vivo sneaks into the luggage of his visiting niece Gabi (Ynairaly Simo) to go to Miami and perform a song for Andrés’ long-lost love, a famous singer named Marta (Gloria Estefan).

While Vivo’s musical flavor is rooted in traditional Cuban styles like mambo, Gabi is a child of TikTok who loves loud, pulsing, electronic beats. Tonal opposites, the two butt heads at the start. But soon they become friends, and their adventure takes them to Florida — whoopee? — which is animated in phosphorescent neon colors.

“Vivo” is a heartfelt piece with catchy songs and a much more cohesive plot than Miranda’s “Moana,” which gets tangled midway through. Sure it could do with a touch more depth, but in the kids movie genre, you could do a lot worse.

I’m not always a fan of Miranda’s acting, yet something about a singing and dancing mini-mammal suits him perfectly. Well, better than a British chimney sweep in “Mary Poppins Returns” anyway.

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