Sunday, August 23, 2020

The One And Only Ivan Review: A Cute Cast of Characters in a Wholesome Story

Release date: August 21, 2020
Running time: 95 minutes 
Starring: Sam Rockwell, Bryan Cranston, Angelina Jolie  

Inspired by a true story, a gorilla named Ivan tries to piece together his past with the help of an elephant named Stella as they hatch a plan to escape from captivity.  Living in a strip mall and performing daily for a carnival in there, Ivan (voiced by Rockwell) is not mistreated, but longs for the life he knew before captivity.  His caregiver Mack (Cranston) is a good owner, but struggling to keep interest in his show.  However, when a new arrival Ruby (voiced by Brooklyn Prince) helps to get some more interest in the show and Ivan discovers a new talent, things begin looking up.  However, despite the change in fortunes, Ivan's desire to return to the wild is still there.

The main draw of this film is the all star cast that Disney assembled for this direct to Disney+ movie.  it has some phenomenal voice talent, including the always wonderful Sam Rockwell as Ivan.  I will love anything that Rockwell does, and this is no exception.  His voice and character are both fun to watch and relatable despite the species barrier.  Other notable voice actors in the film include Angelina Jolie, the always recognizable Danny Devito, the wonderful Helen Mirren, and some interesting choices in Ron Funches and Philipa Soo.  They all bring their characters to life and add a level of fun to this relatively slow-paced film.  And hats off to Brooklyn Prince as Ruby, who ads a much needed childlike wonder to this film that should appeal to children and inner children alike.  And Bryan Cranston is great as the ringleader / circus owner, with his only for the show accent and dynamic personality.  

Similar to Lady and the Tramp, another direct to Disney+ movie, the One and Only Ivan is heavy on the CG.  Thankfully, as with Lady and the Tramp, the CG here is quite good and does not break your enjoyment of the film.  It is all top notch animation and Ivan, particularly, is crafted with a lot of care for his looks and mannerisms.  But this film does feel like a direct to digital film, one that used top talent but saved in other ways.  Like Lady and the Tramp, there is a lot of CG involved and the main filming in the movie is in a singular location; both seem like ways to cut down on the overall cost of the movie.  And this can lead The One and Only Ivan to feel like there is a lack of momentum in the story, as everything pretty much takes place in the big tent.  And although there is a good cast of characters that come in and out of the tent, the setting is by no means the grand adventure that the poster makes it seem.  Additionally, although Ivan has an understandable desire to get back to the wild, I feel like the film does not do a good job of showcasing why.  Other than a general desire to go back, it seems in the movie that Ivan has a pretty good life and a caretaker who genuinely cares about him.  He doesn't really express much discontent and enjoys being the star of the show.  So when his character and motivation change, it just seems to come out of nowhere.  And  it was tough to really understand why without more.  But that being said, the One and Only Ivan is an enjoyable film that should give people what they want: a new movie to keep the kids entertained for a few hours during quarantine.  And the funny cast of voice actors should make that enjoyable for young and old alike.  

The One and Only Ivan assembles a stellar cast for a wholesome circus story that will entertain young and old alike.  

Watch it.
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