If you’ve ever dreamed of Angelina Jolie voicing an elephant, well, your moment has arrived. Disney’s latest offering – The One and Only Ivan – is a loose telling of a true story about a performing gorilla Ivan featuring an all-star cast of Bryan Cranston, Sam Rockwell, Chaka Khan and the aforementioned Jolie, among others.
For a Disney+ release featuring lots of wonderful looking CGI animals, the film really carried a morale gut punch I was not expecting. The story itself – that sees drawing gorilla Ivan (voiced by Rockwell) wanting for himself and his fellow circus animals to be set free – is pretty serviceable. There’s a few cute sequences between a circus assistants daughter and our lead gorilla that might make you smile, but even Cranston’s OTT English accent (which he uses exclusively when performing in the circus) is a little ‘meh’.
Yet it’s the ideas the film carries underneath that really makes you think. We see flashbacks of Ivan’s time in the wild – and we hear Jolie’s elephants lust for freedom – and then witness how they are treated now. Cranston’s circus leader is clearly not a horrible man and clearly has affection for his animals, but he also smells a huge profit radiating from their talents. I’m not convinced the film meant to go so deep, but this is where it got me in the feels and made me think – is Cranston the baddie!? Shouldn’t circuses who use animals be arradicated from the fact of the earth!? I wasn’t expecting to feel so much in this moment but this unexceptional film made me feel some exceptional emotions.