“I think humans like us one way. And gorillas they see as angry.” Stella

“Sometimes, it’s hard to roar for no reason.” Ivan, The One and Only Ivan

Disney is on a roll this year with the on-demand, streaming releases. I know in a perfect, pandemic-free world, Hamilton, Black is King, and the newly released THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN would have been big screen draws. But I am thankful the company is making due by putting these gems on its streaming app – and offering up press screeners in the process!

Now, I didn’t get the opportunity to watch the latter until last night, but when I tell you I have seen it twice already – I am not exaggerating!

The One and Only Ivan is based on Katherine Applegate’s bestselling book and tells the story of a 400-lb silverback gorilla named Ivan (Sam Rockwell), who resides along with several other animals in a mall circus that is experiencing a financial downturn. When the owner (Bryan Cranston) brings in a new draw – a baby elephant named Ruby (Brooklynn Prince) – the show’s attendance takes a turn for the better. But, Ruby’s popularity, and innocence, causes Ivan to struggle with his inability to boost attendance like the past and the notion of what a home beyond cage walls truly means.

Spawned by stories from his close friend Stella the elephant (Angelina Jolie) and with the help of the other circus acts – Helen Mirren (voice of Snickers the poodle), Chaka Khan (voice of Henrietta the chicken), Mike White (voice of Frankie the seal), Ron Funches (voice of Murphy the rabbit), Phillipa Soo (voice of Thelma the parrot) – and a hobo dog named Bob (Danny DeVito), Ivan hatches a plan to escape, only to learn that the outside world isn’t quite what he expects.

With a boost from his friends, including a little girl named Julia (a very endearing Arianna Greenblatt) and her father George (Ramon Rodriguez), and the use of a hidden talent, Ivan learns the meaning of purpose, friendship, keeping promises, and what it truly means to be free.

To say I love this film is a HUGE understatement. It’s a heartwarming story, that really tugged at my heartstrings – being an animal lover and all – and it highlights serious issues in a very gentle manner that even the smaller ones can watch (with some guidance as there is a PG rating).

There’s animal advocacy, the circle of life (I mean it is a Disney film so be forewarned), and loss that is not death related. Yet, it’s very tastefully displayed and the audience is not beat over the head with messaging – just enough to make you think.

And, although I’m 11 years late to the party considering I just binged “Breaking Bad” in July so I could enjoy the follow-up film El Camino, it was nice to see Bryan Cranston in a family movie and not as Walter White!

The comedic timing in the film is also great, and there is plenty of laughter for the young and young-at-heart a like.

All in all, I think the live-action/CGI hybrid film is a visually appeasing and morally sound story, with a great cast and even greater lessons. I give it 4 out of 5 on the MMTrometer.

THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN is streaming now on Disney+.

Until next thought, Thomasena

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