“The One and Only Ivan” pacts an emotional punch for the whole family


“The One and Only Ivan” debuted on Disney+ as of Aug. 14.

Jeshua Glover

Director Thea Sharrock’s “The One and Only Ivan,” based on both the book of the same name as well as the real story of Ivan the Silverback gorilla, is a modern subversion of the captive-animals archetype.

In the age of realistic animal portrayals in film, “The One and Only Ivan” has some stunning computer-generated imagery. This film also has a slew of great voice acting that responds very well with the facial movements of the animals. The plot isn’t hard to follow while the character development is realistic.

Not only is “The One and Only Ivan” not a very long movie, it also doesn’t suffer from the usually break-neck pacing that other short movies do. It is very easy to identify the beginnings and endings of each act. This film doesn’t feel like the characters aren’t genuine in their motivations and development, as each change of heart has a meaningful action associated with it. Most of the characters, specifically Mack, played by Bryan Cranston, and Ivan, voiced by Sam Rockwell, have struggles with their identity and real anxieties about the future.

The character that puts the movie on its back, as far as the dialogue is concerned, is Danny DeVito’s portrayal of Bob, a stray dog that is befriended by Ivan. DeVito’s performance keeps the flow of the story moving forward at a consistent and entertaining pace.

Despite a star-studded cast of voice actors, the only ones with significant speaking roles are DeVito, Rockwell and Cranston. If fans didn’t know that Angelina Jolie was in this movie beforehand, they would never know. Jolie voices an elephant named Stella, and her entire role is merely used as character motivation.

Fans may be able to hear Chaka Khan due to her lively voice, but outside of that, this movie fails to make significant use of its voice actors. For the majority, the film sounds like Cranston, DeVito and Rockwell with a slew of relatively insignificant background characters.

“The One and Only Ivan” is perfect for watching with the family and especially for young children. Adults and teenagers won’t be exactly jumping for joy at this movie, but it will challenge their view of what a “kiddie” movie is.

The story of “The One and Only Ivan” is easy to follow and has a satisfying yet realistic ending. While the voice actors are terribly underused, the tear-jerking emotional context provides an enjoyable experience for the whole family.

“The One and Only Ivan” is available to watch on Disney+.

Final verdict: 7/10