The One and Only Ivan (2020)
Dir: Thea Sharrock
Who is Ivan?
He’s a gorilla, voiced by Sam Rockwell.
Where does he live?
He lives in an enclosure in the middle of a small American mall, run by ringmaster Mack (Bryan Cranston), along with other animals including an Elephant (voiced by Angelina Jolie), a poodle (Helen Mirren), a chicken (Chaka Khan) and a parrot (Philippa Soo, Hamilton) and a stray dog with the unmistakable voice of Danny Devito.
What is this based on?
Right off the top, it says it’s ‘based on a true story’! What?! There was a talking Gorilla friends living in a mall in America with other talking animal friends? How do I not know that story? Really, then, it’s more directly based on the largely fictional children’s book by K. A. Applegate that was inspired by the true story of a non-speaking gorilla called Ivan.
How have I not heard about this film already when it has such an A-list cast?
Although it was intended to get a theatrical release in August 2020, it was dropped straight on to Disney+ just one week later than planned but a little under the radar. It’s firmly a family film and maybe didn’t appeal to an audience much wider than that, nor did it get any glowing reviews that raised its profile, so even I had dismissed it almost completely until it was nominated for both a BAFTA and an Oscar. Now I’ve seen it, I must say, I enjoyed the film, but it would’ve been better to watch it with my nephews or other kids who love animals and would have a good laugh at the bunny in a firetruck. The one thing that did stand out for me, in particular, was young actress Ariana Greenblatt (young Gamora in ‘Avengers: Infinity War’) who I thought was excellent, she has almost as much of a role as Bryan Cranston and was completely convincing acting alongside the CG animals.
Why is this nominated for awards including an Academy Award?
There’s a menagerie of CG animals and while I wasn’t convinced they were real like I was with the tiger in ‘Life of Pi’, that’s probably more because they were talking, rather than any lack of skill or quality in the visual effects. With fewer big-budget action films released in 2020 to take the nominations this year, this has gently risen up the list to get recognition for the impressive visual effects. Will it win? It might, but it’s up against ‘Tenet’ so there’s some serious competition.