‘The One and Only Ivan’ review: A beautiful take on a classic children’s novel


Courtesy of Disney

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 Enterprise, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Rafael Magana, Staff Writer

“The One and Only Ivan”, Disney’s newest live action-CGI hybrid film, provides audiences with a family-centric story that delves into some darker themes.

The plot follows Ivan (voiced by Sam Rockwell), a silverback gorilla with a heart of gold, and his group of animal friends who perform at the Big Top Mall. Under the apprenticeship of their owner and ringleader, Mack (played by Bryan Cranston), they spend their days performing for a dwindling audience in captivity.

Following a tragic event early in the film’s plot, Ivan vows to free Ruby, a baby elephant who was brought in to reignite interest in the big top, and his other animal friends.

The film is lighthearted and funny, yet it’s refreshing to see a film with this budget bring to light real issues, such as animal captivity and its effects on animals. The musical score by Craig Armstrong works to the benefit of the movie as well.

This theme of imprisonment and neglect of animals is present throughout the film and is effective at getting the audience invested. It doesn’t hurt that the animals are all played by likable cast members.

The best thing about this film is its ensemble cast. Danny DeVito voices Bob, a stray dog and friend of Ivan. Bob and Ivan’s dynamic throughout the film is a real delight to see. Angelina Jolie voices Stella, a wise elephant who is one of Ivan’s long time friends.

The evolution of Ivan as a character is handled exceptionally well. At the beginning of the film, he is content and happy with his life of confinement, but as the film continues, Ivan’s sense of security and comfort is challenged and, by extension, his ideals are as well.

One particular performance that caught my attention was Mack, the ringleader of the show at the Big Top Mall.

Bryan Cranston plays the role to perfection and allows us to sympathize with him. Mack is portrayed as a sympathetic character and is very realistic in his characterization and motivations.

Of particular note is his genuine love and care for the animals that perform in the show. Mack is never shown to be mean or abusive towards the animals and shares a genuine bond with them.

Other than Mack, a character that stood out was Julia, played by Ariana Greenblatt. She and her father, George, acted as characters that allowed Ivan to be further fleshed out.

The movie is a live-action CGI hybrid, much like Disney’s earlier effort, “The Lion King,” released last year. Unlike “The Lion King,” however, I believe that it succeeds at its goals. The CGI here is all top-notch, and it really brings the animals to life.

“The One and Only Ivan” has been one of Disney’s strongest efforts as of late. The themes of imprisonment and freedom, as well as the ensemble cast, made it one of the best movies they’ve released in years.