The One and Only Ivan
The movie starts at the circus in Tacoma. Centred around a shopping mall, Mack has built a largely successful circus with a silverback gorilla as his headliner. 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 is 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 he can keep 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?
In The One and Only Ivan, many different animals and characters are shown. As its namesake shows, its protagonist is Ivan, a silverback gorilla who is the main attraction in a circus in a shopping mall. 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 charismatic and a leader. After many years, the circus begins to suffer due to the lack of patronage, 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.
When this film began, I was genuinely surprised by how quickly I became engaged with this story and its characters as when I had read the book this was based off of or even when I heard about this movie, I was not very excited. 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 apart 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 and 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 of the ending of the story though it is slower paced and 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, 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 they are what make it work as you care for them and feel their emotions. The visual effects in the movie are quite well done as 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 though 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 for the most part. 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 though the story may not have been the most original the characters are what make this a movie something I would recommend for the whole family.
This movie is quite enjoyable after the first 25 minutes. The characters are strong and the story follows a narrative that kept me entertained, but those first 25 minutes almost lost me.
The beginning of this movie is very, very slow and it would have been quite easy to turn away a fairly good movie before it really gets started. The characters are developed and the stage is set during these first 25 minutes, but I felt it took too long to dive into the plot. I really would have liked to see less time wasted at the beginning of this movie, where the characters and plot are slow rolled for nearly 30 minutes, and more time spent on the ending which felt like it had a lot of potential.
Now for the good. Every one of the characters is important to the plot in some way or another. There are a few animals that are added purely for comic relief, as this movie is more emotional than first expected. The writers do a wonderful job of alleviating the emotional stress with goofy lines and characters, as this is still considered a children’s movie.
I also found the storyline quite compelling as well. It follows a path that makes total sense, but it also didn’t feel predictable and kept enough suspense to leave me wanting more. This feeling of wanting more was especially present in the ending. I really enjoyed the ending of this movie, but I would have loved another five to ten minutes of content to dive a little bit deeper into that side of the plot.
All in all, this movie is an enjoyable watch, and I would suggest it to anyone who is going to be capable of making it through the first 25 minutes. After that point we get a great film, but for those of you that need a movie to keep you involved for the entire length, there are other movies in this same genre, from Disney even, that do this much better.
The One and Only Ivan was a good movie with strong emotional scenes and likeable characters. Throughout the movie, each character is given a moment to shine, no matter how small or insignificant they may be. Another aspect that this movie does well is the growth of the main characters. Ivan, the namesake of the movie, begins as being proud of his role as the headliner. However, when Ruby joins the circus, Ivan briefly loses his purpose and motivation. His development was one of the movie’s strengths. Besides the characters, another strength was the plot and the emotional scenes. Since the characters were so fleshed out, each interaction felt normal and smooth. The main weakness for this movie was the slow beginning. The first thirty minutes were boring. Other than that, the movie was an enjoyable watch after the first half hour.
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Sharrock, T. (Director). (2020). The One and Only Ivan [Motion picture on Streaming via Disney]. United States: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.