SYNOPSIS: An adaptation of the award-winning book about one very special gorilla, Disney’s “The One and Only Ivan” is an unforgettable tale about the beauty of friendship, the power of visualization and the significance of the place one calls home. Ivan is a 400-pound silverback gorilla who shares a communal habitat in a suburban shopping mall with Stella the elephant, Bob the dog, and various other animals. He has few memories of the jungle where he was captured, but when a baby elephant named Ruby arrives, it touches something deep within him. Ruby is recently separated from her family in the wild, which causes him to question his life, where he comes from and where he ultimately wants to be. 


No one does movies with photorealistic CGI animals as good as Disney. Just check out The Jungle Book and The Lion King. It seems Disney is not resting on its laurel. The One and Only Ivan is yet another family adventure drama that features both a star-studded voice cast and yes, more photorealistic CGI animals!

Based on the children’s novel by Katherine Applegate and written by Mike White (School of Rock), the family drama tells the story of Ivan, a silverback gorilla (voiced by Sam Rockwell) who performs with his fellow animal friends in a tiny circus located in a mall. Business has been rough and Mack the owner cum ringmaster (Bryan Cranston) decides to purchase a baby elephant named Ruby (Brooklyn Prince) to stir things up.

At the behest of Stella the elephant (Angelina Jolie who also produced the movie), Ivan decides to find a way to bring Ruby back to nature where they originally belonged. With his wild instincts calling, will Ivan managed to fulfil Stella’s wish and get all of them out of the circus in the end?

In case you are wondering, there is apparently no real antagonist in The One and Only Ivan. Not even Mack the owner. He is not ruthless and not cruel to the animals at all. The man even lost his partner because of his love for Ivan. You can blame him for being a little too harsh on Ruby but he is just trying hard to keep the circus alive.

The One and Only Ivan entertains with the occasional (sometimes toilet) humour from some of Ivan’s companions mostly his friend Bob, a stray wisecracking mutt voiced by Danny DeVito, Henrietta the chicken, Murphy the rabbit and Dame Helen Mirren as Snickers, the posh poodle. Do note that children under the age of ten might be likely tickled by the realism of the CGI instead of the talky storyline.

I can see that Disney is trying to produce a story that relied more on heartfelt, inspiring messages via slick technology. There is obvious lessons to be learn through Ivan’s past and present. You know the repetitive message about nature and animals and stuff.

Sometimes, we missed the good old days of Disney movies. Homeward Bound, Mighty Joe Young, Operation Dumbo Drop just to name a few. Harmless creative family-friendly entertainment that pleases both children and adults. The One and Only Ivan hardly feels appealing to both. You can’t deny it does have a good intention but there’s only so much a kind old man and a charming gorilla who draws can bring to the screen.


Review by Linus Tee