Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN (Disney+)

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!”

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Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: ANIMAL CRACKERS (Netflix)

ANIMAL CRACKERS journey to make it to the big scr…well…any kind of screen is interesting in itself. I’ll get to that bit in a minute. I watched this movie last weekend with my kid (it premiered on Netflix this past Friday as well) and while the 2nd half is much better than the first (it lost both his and mine attention multiple times as it took a bit to get really into the movie), it ultimately succeeds because of the fantastic climax, the cool set of rules the magical box of cookies come with that reveals itself along the way and not all at once, and the superb voice acting. If only the beginning of the film had a little more focus to make the set up a little less confusing. It goes through several generations of family in the span of only a couple of minutes and it is hard to sort out who is who for several scenes and it also takes a tad too long to get to the animal crackers themselves. But then once those magical MacGuffin’s are introduced, the film blasts off at the speed of light. It is just a little disappointing because if the whole movie was as strong in both parts, it would’ve really been something special. Well, it already is because I loved watching my son pointing out all of the different animals, naming them at the top of his lungs and “ohhh” and “ahhhh”ing at the action. As a avid film goer and fanatic I might only make a couple of more trips to this wild circus of a movie before I start to just fast forward to the good stuff.

Per IMDB.com, it describes ANIMAL CRACKERS as: “A family must use a magical box of Animal Crackers to save a run-down circus from being taken over by their evil uncle Horatio P. Huntington.” This movie was originally intended to be released on April 27, 2017 by Relativity Media, before they went defunct. It then set to be released on September 1, 2017 by upstart film company Serafini Releasing before they also shut down. This movie was later acquired by Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures, but the producers have since come out from that deal.┬áThe film almost never came out because it was held up for almost a year due to a lawsuit by a Seattle fisherman named Rodger May who claimed he owned the copyright to the film. The lawsuit was eventually withdrawn. All records of the lawsuit are public and can be found by a search for “Mayday vs. Animal Crackers”. Eventually Netflix bought it and although it was finished in 2017, that copyright states 2019. And then it was just released this past weekend on the streaming platform. I recommend you take a deeper look into its history, it is quite interesting to say the least. More interesting than the first half. Anyway, the point is, it is out there now, which is good because I don’t think any project should be delayed that long to see the light of day…looking at you New Mutants! The voice acting in this is excellent, there are too many celebrities to list but you have Danny DeVito, Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Ian McKellen, and Sylvester Stallone. They all do a fantastic job, Stallone’s Bullet-Man character making me laugh out loud several times.

The other two things that make me ultimately recommend this movie is that the action packed climax is perfectly executed combining perfect pacing with plot progression, and then the rules of the animal crackers themselves. To try and explain it to the best of my ability, there is this box of animal crackers passed down from generation to generation that magically never, ever run out. You eat one, it turns into the animal that you eat, and then to turn back into human, you have to find the human cracker of you in the box, and then once you eat that, you turn back to your normal self while the cookie of the animal you had just eaten reappears in the box. There are other new rules that you figure out along the way as well, but revealing any of those would be spoilers and it is best for you to experience the journey for yourselves if you have any interest in watching this thing with your kids and family. I like how it stuck to the rules, and that there were no bending or breaking of them, it was all quite clever, even though some twists at the end I saw coming from a mile away. Again, I just wish the first half was as good. In any kind of movie you just can’t have the interest bits come up when you finally introduce the MacGuffin’s. Your story and movie need to have a beginning hook, and I just found it to be boring plot set up that felt like I was watching a standard biography on a generation of a family. That’s just me though. The animation is nice and pleasing to the eye, and the second half will definitely grab you, it’s just that those first 30 minutes were almost too bland and stale. Key word is almost.