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THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN (2020) – My rating: 8/10

The One and Only Ivan is a fantasy drama directed by Thea Sharrock from a screenplay written by Mike White based on the children’s novel of the same name by K. A. Applegate. The One and Only Ivan is inspired by the true story of Ivan the gorilla. Because this film was nominated for an Academy Award, I wanted to find out why — I think the movie was well done with a profound message about wildlife and animals.

In 1973, Ivan (voice: Sam Rockwell), a silverback western lowland gorilla, is living in an enclosure at the Big Top Mall. He performs for Mack (Bryan Cranston), the owner, alongside other performing animals; a wise and nurturing African elephant named Stella (voice: Angelina Jolie), her spoiled poodle co-performer named Snickers (voice: Helen Mirren), a spunky baseball-playing chicken named Henrietta (voice: Chaka Khan), a toy fire truck-riding rabbit named Murphy (voice: Ron Funches), a paranoid sea lion named Frankie (voice: Mike White) and a loquacious parrot named Thelma (voice: Phillipa Soo). Ivan’s main friend is a stray mutt named Bob (voice: Danny DiVito) who secretly lives in his enclosure unless Mack has the security guard Castello (Owain Arthur) drive him out. Mack’s janitorial employee George (Ramón Rodríguez) brings his daughter Julia (Ariana Greenblatt) who frequently interacts with Ivan. One day, Julia leaves her old crayons with Ivan who suddenly begins taking an interest in drawing with them. Julia is apparently the only one who can decipher his drawings and what they mean.

Business is no longer booming at the Big Top Mall causing Mack to be concerned however, he becomes excited when he purchases a baby elephant named Ruby (voice: Brooklynn Prince) from a bankrupt circus. Ruby begins to draw in a crowd and is placed in Stella’s enclosure. Ivan is initially hesitant over accepting Ruby, especially when she begins to pry into his personal life. When Stella suddenly becomes weaker and unable to perform, Ivan gives Ruby encouragement to embrace the crowd on her own. Afterward, Ruby asks Ivan to tell her a story and Ivan reveals how Mack and his wife Helen (Hannah Bourne) adopted him when he was just a baby.

This is another children’s flick that delivers a profound message making, The One and Only Ivan a worthwhile film to see for more than just kids. The story promotes getting circus animals out of cages and into more natural habitats at zoos and preserves. It has an all-star cast of voices backing the characters. I also enjoyed the special effects as well as the story, which is based on a real gorilla that could draw.  This tale is heartfelt and the outcome is sweet.  I recommend the One and Only Ivan to children and adults alike. On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 71% based on 114 reviews with an average rating of 6.20/10. The website’s critic’s consensus reads, “An uncertain approach to the story’s darker themes undermines its emotional stakes, but The One and Only Ivan offers heartwarming entertainment for younger viewers.” The One and Only Ivan is streaming on Disney + — Check It Out!

[THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN is Oscar-nominated at the 93rd Academy Awards for Best Visual Effects — Totaling 1 Nomination]