The Reel House’s review published on Letterboxd:
“I am not giving up now.”
I was very excited to see this film as it stars 3 of my favourite actors : Bryan Cranston, Sam Rockwell and Danny Devito. Sam Rockwell is great in the film, his performance as Ivan is restrained, nuanced and completely heartbreaking. Yeah Ivan is a CGI character but goddamn I felt for him. Ivan’s past telling us this story of a very real tragedy that happened was incredibly heartbreaking. Bryan Cranston’s performance as Mack was amazing, it would have been so easy for the film to have completely villainised the character of Mack but it doesn’t it. The film instead presents Mack with plenty of pathos and layers. Cranston is such a talented actor and he chooses his roles very wisely and I can really see as to why he would’ve been attracted to playing this role. Honestly I think that Cranston is worthy of an Oscar nomination here. Danny Devito plays Ivan’s canine comrade “Bob” in the film and he completely steals the show ! Devito is hilarious here and his line readings are fantastic. The chemistry between these 3 actors (although two of the actors are only providing their voices) is fantastic also.
The film’s use of special effects was fantastic too. The animals in the film for the most part look great and very lifelike. The detail on the character designs were immaculate. The film also uses CGI in one specific sequence to De-Age Bryan Cranston and it looked really good. I’m not the biggest fan of the over reliance on CGI these days with cinema but I was really impressed here.
The score for the film by Craig Armstrong was extremely effective. The score amplified the emotional core of the film and helped the film attain those emotional scenes.
Mike White penned the screenplay for the film, this also got me excited to watch the film. I am for the most part a fan of Mike White’s written films although he can be hit or miss. White has written films like “School of Rock” (one of my favourite films of all time) but then has gone and written films like “Chuck and Buck” which is a film I am definitely not a fan of. Thankfully White’s screenplay here was great and he really makes us emotionally resonate with the characters. I really cared for Ivan and wanted him to feel free for once and White was a big contributor to this.
Disney have been disappointing me a lot as of late. All they seem to put out now is big tent pole releases with the Disney “live-action” remake thrown in. This film felt incredibly refreshing as it was akin to classic Disney films such as “Bambi”, “Dumbo” and “The Fox and the Hound.” These were the films that made Disney was they are today jam packed with care and moralistic and timeless stories.
Maybe my favourite and what I think is the most important aspect of the film is heart. The film has heart. Even if you don’t like the film or didn’t buy into it or whatever, the film knows what it’s doing and it absolutely cares about what it’s saying. The film handles incredibly sad but also very relevant subjects like animal cruelty but it does it with grace and respect. The film’s message is incredible and one that we should teach young people about.
The film is incredibly sad but..... it’s the good kind of sad. It’s the kind of sad that shows you something that you may have been missing prior to having watched it. The film didn’t have to try, it could’ve just been a fun kids movie with celebrity cameos but... it’s much more than that. The ending killed me. This is a true story and it needs to be heard and seen and watched.
“The One and Only Ivan” is a great movie that is already criminally underseen. If you have a family, go watch it with them. If you don’t have a family, go watch this. I got so much more from this film than I anticipated and maybe you will too.
“This is a real game changer !”