The one and only Ivan

“The One and Only Ivan”, as advertised by a billboard in the movie of the same name, is the huge stellar gorilla in a circus show held permanently inside a shopping mall. To consummate each show, he always climbs to the highest part of his cage, behind the scenes, where he remains in sight of the spectators sheltered by a traditional conical tent, who shudder with his fierce roar. Such is the daily life of the famous ape, who seems satisfied with his routine lifestyle until the arrival of a little elephant turns his world upside down. On the one hand, the pachyderm named Ruby threatens to steal her prominence from the public. But in reality, the greatest shock she causes in Ivan is anticipated by a question with no foreseeable answer: “Will we ever be free?”

A year after the Dumbo remake, Walt Disney Pictures once again tackled the not always jovial world of the circus, but now it dispensed with the extravagant – increasingly diffuse – style of Tim Burton to limit itself to the intimate drama raised by the director Thea Sharrock (Me before you), although without losing the fantastic touch so typical of the House of the Mouse. In that sense, The one and only Ivan is a mostly parsimonious film where animals (created with fine-tuned digital animation) speak and gesticulate like humans, in addition to exhibiting a related consciousness that enables them to relate their past, comment on their present, and question their future. Of course, this humanization is not something revolutionary, but it should be said that the recent premiere of Disney Plus Latin America knows how to take advantage of it through a simple but moving story.

Here, the imprisoned animals do not acquire a passive role or are sent to the background, as occurs in other types of narratives where the interest falls on well-intentioned young people or children who promote a complex rescue mission. This film, based on the children’s novel The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, prefers to focus on those beings behind the bars who — endowed with speech and rational thought — can share anecdotes and personal concerns, while discovering a need collective to be free. The film’s predilection for dialogues that effectively delineate its hairy or stumpy main characters is noteworthy. In this way, very emotional conversations arise framed by an almost invariable setting (a warehouse equipped to keep these animals in captivity) that demonstrate the good possibilities that the script would have of being taken to the theater; an attribute that would not be accidental if we consider Sharrock’s training in the performing arts.

There are about a dozen non-human talents in the Big Top Mall circus, but only a third show considerable weight in history; among them, the gorilla Ivan and the elephant Ruby. The other animals — a poodle, a rabbit, a silky hen, a sea lion, and a macaw — are given minimal or merely comic interventions that together offer little glimpse of companionship without ever formalizing an emotionally strong bond between them. This point is relevant because, far from pretending to reproach him for frivolity in the development of those characters, the film makes such “carelessness” a mechanism (perhaps unconscious) so that the viewer does not fall into the trap of excusing this forced confinement because it is home of a cheerful family of diverse species. There is no friendly gang even similar, for example, to the hilarious Madagascar quartet, and that suits the plot of The One Great Ivan.

Another outstanding feature of the feature film is its impeccable voice cast, which includes Oscar winners Sam rockwell, as the titular ape, and Angelina Jolie, like Stella, a wise and maternal adult elephant whose past experiences in the jungle sow longings for freedom in the circus. However, probably the most memorable performances are that of rising talent. Brooklyn prince (The Florida project), giving voice to the curious Ruby, and that of the veteran Danny DeVito, who steals the movie as Bob, a shameless but kind-hearted stray dog, faithful friend and moral support of Ivan.

In the live-action aspect, Bryan cranston He shines as the charismatic ringmaster Mack, who is also a father figure to the noble gorilla having cared for him since he was a baby. On the other hand, clearly this circus is not the walking virtue. Due in part to the economic crisis his business is suffering, he sporadically brings up defects such as ineptitude, abuse and neglect by not properly feeding his animals (Ruby says he is often hungry). But despite these lapses, Mack presents himself mostly as caring and well-meaning. He is a character far from the stereotype of a cruel and heartless owner, who rightly is not denied the opportunity for redemption.

The one and only Ivan is an endearing film that manages to overcome simple family entertainment and does not fall into the gratuitous message, although definitely an open ending (or at least more sober and less redundant) would have worked better for it. It is also a tribute to the real gorilla named Ivan who lived 27 years in a US mall, as a vile showcase attraction. The real event evidently prevails in the heartbreaking and expands in other directions, but Thea Sharrock’s cinematic fiction delivers on providing good characters and a story told with the loving intonation it deserves.

Original title: The One and Only Ivan

Year: 2020

Director: Thea Sharrock (Me Before You)

Actors: Sam Rockwell, Angelina Jolie, Danny DeVito, Bryan Cranston

Release date:January 22, 2021 (US)

Disney Plus The One and Only Ivan

Toño Guzmán I have a very bad memory. Out of solidarity with my memories, I choose to lose myself too. Preferably in a movie theater.