The One And Only Ivan

Certificate: PG

Starring: Bryan Cranston, Sam Rockwell, Angelina Jolie, Danny De Vito, Helen Mirren, Brooklynn Prince, Ariana Greenblatt

Release date: 2020

3 out of 5


Based on the Katherine Applegate book for children, The One And Only Ivan tells the story of a gorilla (voiced by Rockwell) who has been raised by the kindly Mack (Cranston) and is part of a ramshackle circus show that takes place in a suburban American mall.

Along with elephant Stella (Jolie), performing poodle Snickers (Mirren), baseball-playing chicken Henrietta (Chaka Khan) and new recruit, baby elephant Ruby (Prince), Ivan performs daily to the circus’s dwindling audiences but secretly dreams of life in the wild.

A gentle live action movie (the darker elements of Ivan’s tale such as him being snatched from his father in the wild are swept past quickly so as not to upset little ones), this features seamless CGI that allows the animals to believably talk to each other (the creatures themselves are a mix of real animals and digital ones).

It’s reminiscent of classic Disney family movies like Homeward Bound, and has the same sweet tone that should tug at the heartstrings of both kids and adults. It could be argued that there’s nothing desperately original about it, but Ivan is charming and entertaining nonetheless, and features enjoyable voice characterisations from the cast.

And as the end credits reveal, there was a real gorilla named Ivan who inspired the book and the movie – captured from the wild as a baby, he spent 27 years of his life on display at an American shopping centre before campaigners secured his release. Ivan spent his remaining years at Zoo Atlanta until his death, aged 50, in 2012.

Is The One And Only Ivan suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...

There is a brief scene showing baby Ivan and his father being chased through the wild by poachers which may upset very young viewers.

Viewers may find it upsetting that Ivan and his friends are in cages when they are not performing.

One character falls ill and dies, which will upset most viewers.

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