The One and Only Ivan
By James Davidson
“The One and Only Ivan” is a film based on a true story that was released on August 21st of this year on the Disney+ streaming service. It follows the true story of Ivan, a silverback gorilla who is the headliner of a circus that is located inside of a mall. Ivan tries to piece together his past as he befriends the newest addition to the circus, a baby elephant named Ruby. Ivan, Ruby, and the rest of the animals in the circus, dream of a life of freedom and plan an elaborate escape from the circus mall. After the escape fails, Ivan uses his artistic prowess to try to communicate his desire for freedom.
After watching the trailer for this movie, I thought it looked like a cute, feel-good movie, that also had the potential to be a little slow and CGI heavy. I’m not usually a fan of talking animals most of the time. I think it can be done well, but more times than not, the movie ends up looking cheesy or looks a bit off-putting. I was pleasantly surprised with this movie however. The CGI, while heavily used, was done well and the talking animals were not off-putting at all.
The plot of this film did get a bit slow in places. There is a lot of dialogue and not a lot of action, which makes the story drag on in parts, especially for a children’s movie. I found my attention wandering at times, so I can only imagine a young child might have a hard time paying attention throughout this film. If you can overlook the slow parts, the story is pretty entertaining.
Visually the film does an amazing job with the animals. The CGI doesn’t look too heavy and the filmmakers did a good job at making the animals look just human enough that the fact that they spoke didn’t seem too odd. The filmmakers did a great job at allowing the animals to emote through facial expressions without losing their animal qualities.
I enjoyed the fact that the movie is based on a true story and has somewhat of a local connection, since after Ivan was freed from the circus mall, he was transferred to Zoo Atlanta. I do think that the film romanticized some of the facts of Ivan’s life. For example, Ivan and the other animals seem fairly content in their home in a mall. I have a very hard time believing that they were happy in that environment. I’m frankly surprised that they were allowed to be kept in a mall for almost thirty years.
This movie is rated PG for mild thematic elements. I didn’t find anything in this movie that would make it inappropriate for young children. I think this is a great family film and would be a great movie for a family night. This movie should be entertaining for all ages and would be a great way to escape reality as a family for a night. It also is worth looking up the story of the real Ivan after watching the film as it is very entertaining and educational itself. I didn’t realize that Ivan actually painted in real life and I found that fascinating.
“The One and Only Ivan” is a cute, feel-good family film that is fun for the whole family. It can get a bit slow in places, and might romanticize the animals’ captivity a bit, but is a well-written and executed movie all-around. I would watch this movie again, though I wouldn’t go out of my way to. I recommend it for any family for their next movie night. It earns 3.5 out of 5 stars.