Disney has been peddling schmaltz since its foundation. In fact, it is the schmaltz which are in fact the foundations on which the company was founded. Every year, it certainly likes to remind you of this fact with moving animations or sappy live-action entries.
This year, landing on Disney+, is The One and Only Ivan. Whilst it is clumsily over-sentimental, you’ll still leave with a tear in your eye, lest your heart be made out of stone.
The One and Only Ivan, based on a true story and adapted from a book by Katherine Applegate, revolves around the titular gorilla. He is the headliner of the Big Top Mall Circus run by Mac. He can draw, he can fight, and he can roar. However, the circus itself is attracting fewer and fewer spectators and is struggling to make a profit. When Mac gains a baby elephant named Ruby as a new attraction, he feels ousted from his top spot. That is until he starts to bond with Ruby. Together, they start to dream of a life beyond their cages, where they can finally be free.
Directed by Thea Sharrock, who is no stranger with playing with our emotions thanks to her feature film debut Me Before You, The One and Only Ivan is a lovely and quaint film that will surely somewhat entertain adults and children alike. Especially because it is geared more towards a younger audience.
The movie is populated by talking CGI creatures who are voiced by highly recognisable actors. Sam Rockwell takes the main role as silverback Ivan and he has friends such as Danny DeVito’s Bob the Dog, Helen Mirren’s Snickers the Poodle, Angelina Jolie’s Stella the Elephant, and The Florida Project’s Brooklyn Prince who voices Ruby. Even Chaka Khan voices a chicken. The cast are entertaining enough though, with the exception of Prince who brings a much needed sweetness to the baby elephant, the more famous of the cast are not inspiring at all. In fact, all certainly feel as though they are cashing in a cheque.
Only Bryan Cranston who, ever the professional, feels like he is giving his all as the near-maniacal Mac – one of the few actual non-CGI humans in this world. He plays his showman as entertaining as Hugh Jackman but without the musical numbers. However, when the lights go down, he is also a kindly man who is just struggling to make ends meet. Though you may not agree with his, you know, keeping animals in a mall to use for entertainment, you can certainly empathise with his journey.
The One and Only Ivan feels like those old nineties flicks that you’d watch on your television during a rainy Sunday, cuddled up and cosy with the whole family. It is not ground-breaking cinema, the comedy and emotionality are exactly what you’d expect.
However, by the time you get to the end, it will certainly fill any empty heart.