The One and Only Ivan is Heartwarming

Ivan (voiced by Sam Rockwell) and Bryan Cranston as Mack in Disney’s THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN, based on the award-winning book by Katherine Applegate and directed by Thea Sharrock. Photo courtesy of Disney. © 2020 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The One and Only Ivan is another heartwarming picture from The Walt Disney Studios and it is sure to be a solid winner for Disney+.

By my count, this film marks the third of four films from Disney to skip theatrical release.  Given the pandemic, the studio is taking advantage of having Disney+ at their disposal.  At the same time, you also can’t help but feel bad for the theaters because it means a lesser split at the box office.

Our leading star is Ivan (Sam Rockwell), a silverback gorilla.  When we meet him, he’s living in a small habitat at a shopping mall with Bob the dog (Danny DeVito) and Stella the elephant (Angelina Jolie).  While Ivan doesn’t remember much about the African jungle, something sparks him when a baby elephant, Ruby (Brooklynn Prince), soon makes her home at the mall.  In meeting Ruby, Ivan certainly starts to have something of a crisis and changes the very future of the circus.  It takes a while to get there but you just know that he wants to have his freedom again.

Thea Sharrock is at the helm behind the camera while Mike White adapts Katherine Applegate’s Newbery Medal-winning book.  The One and Only Ivan also features a very minimal human cast in terms of characters.  The rest are CGI animals voiced by humans.  Bryan Cranston is among the few actors appearing on screen as Mack.  He’s joined by Ramon Rodriguez and Ariana Greenblatt as George and George’s daughter, Julia, respectively.

It is honestly hard to tell where the live-action ends and the CGI begins.  I mean, the technology is there for animals to be in CGI because of what we saw in both The Jungle Book and The Lion King.  Hey, this just happens to be the beauty of digital filmmaking–for better or worse!  Regarding Disney films that have been set at the circus of late, this film is far superior to 2019’s Dumbo.  By a mile!

The set design is also very minimal.  We’re mostly hanging out in the habitat with Ivan and Bob.  Next door to the habitat is Stella and later, Ruby.  The film jumps over to the stage for the circus every now and then but then we go right back.  With the amount of CGI here, it makes sense to keep things to an absolute minimum.

The film is one of the final projects to be produced by Allison Shearmur.  Shearmur died in 2018.

You know how you’re reading a book and flip to the back of the book to see how it ends?  I felt this way while watching this film.  It certainly would be impossible to do for the obvious reason–it would feel like cheating.  You know what I mean?  I’m happy that Ivan gets his happy ending.  Well, as happy as endings can get.

The One and Only Ivan is a film that the whole family will enjoy.

DIRECTOR:  Thea Sharrock
CAST:  Sam Rockwell, Angelina Jolie, Danny DeVito, Helen Mirren, Brooklynn Prince, Ramon Rodriguez, Ariana Greenblatt, Chaka Khan, Ron Funches, Phillipa Soo, Mike White, and Bryan Cranston

Disney+ will release The One and Only Ivan on August 21, 2020. Grade: 4/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.