The One and Only Ivan
Director: Thea Sharrock
I quite enjoyed The One and Only Ivan, and although the story may not have been the most original, the characters are what make this a movie I would recommend for the whole family.
What Happens in The One and Only Ivan?
The One and Only Ivan starts at the circus in Tacoma. Centred around a shopping mall, Mack has built a largely successful circus with a silverback gorilla, Ivan. Ivan has been with Mack since he was a young gorilla. His act draws people from near and far looking to see an angry gorilla without having to leave the country. While they spent many years as the malls main attraction, adding new acts to keep people entertained, the circus has started to lose popularity and crowds start to shrink.
The circus is in desperate need of bigger crowds, and Ivan does everything he can to keep people coming back, but it’s no use. After a few weeks, it is clear that the circus will be lost if Mack can’t find a new act or a new way to bring in more people. He spends nights stressing about where he is going to find more money or people to some how keep his circus alive, until the gift of his life falls into his lap.
One morning, Bob finds out a new animal is on the way. He tells Snickers to keep the news a secret, but as soon as he leaves the room he tells Ivan the potentially circus-saving news. A feeling of nervous hope floods over the entire group of animals as they anxiously wait for the arrival of the new animal. Will this new act really be able to save their floundering circus?
Who Are The Characters in The One and Only Ivan?
In The One and Only Ivan, many different animals and characters are shown. As its namesake shows, its protagonist is Ivan, a silverback gorilla. Ivan, in the circus, is portrayed as an angry gorilla, and is the headliner of the show. However, through interactions with other characters, Ivan is shown to be kind and caring.
Alongside his friend Bob, a stray dog, the two share a close friendship, akin to the relationship between Shrek and Donkey. The owner of the circus, and the adoptive father of Ivan, is Mack. He is a charismatic leader. After many years, the circus begins to suffer due to the lack of public support; however, Ruby, a baby elephant soon joins the circus. Young and wide-eyed, Ruby livens up the circus, and her innocence prompts many stories from Stella, an older elephant, and Ivan.
The One and Only Ivan Review
When this film began, I was genuinely surprised by how quickly I became engaged with this story and its characters. Having read the book, I wasn’t super excited for a re-creation in movie form. Right off the bat this film introduces you to its world and its characters through the character of Ivan, the gorilla.
The audience gets to see how the circus has functioned up to this point, and we meet the characters that are a part of this world. The film is clever in the way it shows that the circus is not that busy, by not only using narration but by showing the empty crowd. Even the sign advertising the circus looked faded, and I appreciated the detail.
The first 30 minutes is mostly set up and character development as we see the relationships and bonds between the animals of the circus. I feel that this beginning is essential for the emotional payoff at the end of the story, although it is slower paced. I could see some viewers having trouble remaining engaged while viewing the film, especially younger kids as the beginning is slower with not much happening.
After the introduction of the character Ruby, the baby elephant, the story kicks it into high gear where we see Ivan make a promise to another elephant named Stella and his attempts to keep said promise. Many entertaining events and high jinks follow, and they lead to an emotional ending, where it is bittersweet for one character and for the rest is exactly what they hoped for.
The acting in the film is very good with the stand out characters being Ivan ( as voiced by Sam Rockwell),who provides an engaging protagonist who has a sad backstory and though he looks fierce is a gentle gorilla, and Mack (as played by Bryan Cranston), who gives a human perspective on the events and his connection with the animals ( particularly Ivan) is charming and makes his character likeable.
Ruby (as voiced by Brooklyn Prince) is quite cute and sweet as she does a good job making the audience care for her. These characters are essential for the film, as you care for them and feel their emotions. The visual effects in the movie are quite well done, and the animals feel very present, alive, and very real.
The audience will see the emotion on the animals faces and care what happens to them because they look like they are actually there. The story is quite interesting as well, although this might be where my only complaint is.
While I love the characters, the story itself is not anything new as it is predictable and many movie goers might be able to see where it is going. At one point the movie almost made me think it was ending but in fact there was still half an hour left, so I was excited it was not all as I had expected. All in all this was a film I quite enjoyed, and although the story may not have been the most original, the characters are what make this a movie I would recommend for the whole family.