The One and Only Ivan

The One and Only Ivan ★★★½

This is the most adorable movie of 2020 so far I think. Absolutely heartwarming and probably the best original Disney+ film released in a while it feels like it was made for theater tier watching and manages to pull off a show of touching wonder a step above another TV movie. Overall feeling like a much overdue homecoming for Disney. As Disney returns to its favorite story playground and form of heartbreaking animal stories with Ivan the silverback gorilla. Actually based on the true story of Ivan the Picasso gorilla and his domesticated circus life. The One and Only Ivan beautifully conveys not only the power of family and friends, the difficulty of letting go, and the need for us all animals included to just be free. 

The film has the all the fun and endearingly entertaining vibes of Doctor Dolittle or Homeward Bound and the heart of Paddington. And by golly I’m glad Disney finally got the digital talking animals right. None of that Lady and the Tramp CGI overkill. The One and Only Ivan is sweet and funny with the animals cracking jokes, but never really trying too hard. And getting a why did the chicken cross the road joke in was corny fun and perfectly timed amusement. The animals are realized quite well by a great cast including Sam Rockwell, Danny Devito, Helen Mirren, and Angelina Jolie who also produces the film. While being complemented by well rounded human counterparts featuring Bryan Cranston and Ariana Greenblatt who is too cute and authentic for words and never comes off as annoying.

Ivan is also based on a children’s Illustrated book and probably makes a good companion with the film for kids. An while the film is charming and engaging it’s nothing very new. In fact for moment I thought it was going to be another Dumbo tale to a tee when Ruby came in, but I’m glad it went a little further in its exploration of the life of Ivan and animals behind bars. So don’t expect any major surprises. And it’s probably the one thing that keeps this film from being great. I also really like that it’s narrated by Ivan. However the film brings on the waterworks. I kid you not, especially by the end. I probably cried several times while laughing in between as the film has an unapologetic honesty that’s gravely missed in some newer films. 

Meanwhile the film has a way of pointing out the flaws of caged life and the dangers of humans for animals without being too heavy handed making a good educational and informative plot device, that gets us all to rethink what it means to be free vs locked up. Although the irony is in some sense lost by the end going from one type of cage to another depending on how you look at it and feel about animal rights. But mostly the film is very well paced making for an enjoyable flick for the whole family. And while I don’t think it’s the most memorable of all animal films it definitely left an impression and brightened my day. I only kind of wish they made a documentary of Ivan too. An if you’re looking for a Disney+ film this one is certainly worth watching.

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