THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN, that just premiered today on Disney+, is just another standard talking animal movie. Designed to hit you in the feels with a couple of moments while watching it, but those feelings lost in time almost immediately afterward. Kids will enjoy it more than adults, but some of the younger ones might be cuddling up with their parents during the sadder and darker moments. Not that there’s a lot of those moments, because it really is just a harmless kids film but I doubt neither you or your kids are going to be singing its praises for a re-watch or two. Ivan is filled with excellent voice acting, particularly from Sam Rockwell and Brooklynn Prince, and a solid live action performance from Bryan Cranston, but did you expect anything less with the latter, as this is Heisenberg we are talking about here? I don’t think Cranston has the heart to ever phone it in. At the start of the movie, I was afraid it was going to go down certain predictable story paths we’ve seen before. You see, I have heard about this film very little, have seen only a screenshot or two online and didn’t watch the trailer. Almost went in completely blind. At first I thought it was going to be another “save the **insert business here** movie,” then it switched direction and I thought it was going to be another “jealousy between old and new talent” movie but in the end it (thankfully) became a “captivity” movie, although it didn’t have much to say as I felt like a lot was held back. Disney style.
That “captivity” conversation is held back mainly due to the fact that the film really didn’t have a centralized villain, such as a greedy animal tamer, unless you count depression and death as the villain. Which maybe it did? If it did that wasn’t quite clear. Bryan Cranston’s character is a kind-hearted but clueless mini mall circus owner, so do you really think that near the end of the film he is going to have a sudden mean streak, be an asshole and not let his animals go back out into the wild? Yeah…no. That doesn’t happen and if it did, that’s where the movie would have lost me. IMDB describes THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN as such: “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.” The log line is a little misleading as there is nothing to piece together from his past, he remembers all of it and knows he eventually wants freedom. It’s more just “telling his tale” than piecing together anything. And the “hatching a plan to escape part” is only in 5 to 7 minutes of the film, ends even more quickly and is used more as a comic relief scene than it does trying to be something meaningful. Screenplay writer Mike White, who has written such gems as School of Rock, The Good Girl, and Orange county seems to be on a weird and calm autopilot here, not really putting much “inspiration” into the Inspired By A True Story title card the film puts on the screen before the movie starts.
The movie isn’t bad, it’s just okay…it’s just there. Certainly not the worst thing Disney+ has given us thus far, but if you have nothing even half way challenging The Mandalorian’s throne, what good are you really? But…you and yours might like this film a lot more than I did. Sam Rockwell as Ivan and Brooklynn Prince as Ruby did tremendous jobs with their voice acting and those two’s work might be worth a one time watch alone. The CGI of the animals was also pretty tame and not jarring in the least, and the faces of the animals talking actually looked like they had personalities, kind of like Disney+’s recent live action adaptation of The Lady and The Tramp, and thankfully unlike an audience overrated “live-action” remake last year where the lions…errr, all the animals looked like bored talking robots. I just want something more from these original movies on these streaming platforms. Everything seems to be on autopilot with these originals, using some blueprint that has a bunch of wear and tear because it has been used too many times in too many things. Surely there is something more that these originals can bring to the table? But I have a feeling The House of Mouse is holding some of these projects back if it doesn’t fit their family-friendly “brand.” There are other darker and sadder places this movie could have and probably should have gone to make its messages and themes hit home more, but that doesn’t fit in with Disney’s brand, so out that goes. Are we really going to keep shielding adults and children that can obviously handle the truth? **gets handed a cease and desist order** Goofy: “Gosh, Zach, shut up, you’re making us look bad…HYUK!”