By: Lana K. Wilson-Combs
If you’re looking for a little something that will pick you up and make you smile and laugh a bit, then by all means watch “The One and Only Ivan”
which debuts Aug. 21 on Disney+.
Directed by Thea Sharrock (“Me Before You”), “The One and Only Ivan,” is a charming adaptation of Katherine Applegate’s 2012 Newbery Medal Award-winning novel. It’s based in part on a true story.
It’s hard not to fall for Ivan, (Sam Rockwell, “Untitled Merle Haggard Biopic”). He’s a sweet, 400-pound talking silverback gorilla with a heart of gold.
For the past 27 years, Ivan has lived in a cage at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade. That mall reminds me so much of the Central City Mall in my hometown of San Bernardino. Maybe that’s why I like this movie so much. That, along with the crazy talking animals like Henrietta the chicken (voiced by Chaka Khan), a pesky parrot named Thelma, (Phillipa Soo, “Hamilton”), Stella, the African elephant (Angelina Jolie, “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil”), a seal named Frankie (Mike White/Screenwriter “The One and Only Ivan” ), Mack’s pampered poodle Snickers (Helen Mirren, Upcoming, “F9”) and a mutt dog named Bob (Danny DeVito, “Jumanji: The Next Level”).
The Big Top Mall and Video Arcade used to be a bustling place. Kids would come with their parents to see the fun, small tent circus show that Mack the ringmaster/owner (Bryan Cranston, “The Upside”) created. It featured an assortment of animals—including the one and only Ivan--doing all sorts of entertaining tricks.
Mack has been with Ivan since he was a baby and raised him like a son. Now, the mall has fallen on tough times and kids don’t seem to be as interested in the circus anymore. It could be that the acts have worn out their welcome too.
Mack must get his act together and fast. He needs another star attraction. Of course, all that talk about bringing a new animal in is making Ivan feel nonessential.
When Stella becomes sick, Mack decides to liven up the show by getting a baby elephant named Ruby (Brooklyn Prince, TV’s “Day by Day” ). At first Ruby is shy about performing but she comes around and is soon quite a hit with audiences.
Once Mack discovers through his assistant George (Ramon Rodriguez, TV’s “Prism”) and George’s cute daughter Julia (Ariana Greenblatt, “Scoob!”) that Ivan knows how to draw, he believes that's a great addition for the show and it could attract more people.
In the meantime, Stella (Jolie) is getting sicker. She wants Ivan to take care of Ruby and ensure she’ll be free one day and not spend the rest of her life in captivity like she did.
Soon, all the animals start wondering what freedom would be like and decide to bust out the mall they have called home for so long. They get a rude awakening.
What Ivan, Mack and the rest of the animals discover in the end of this heart-warming tale is that sometimes in life you’ve got to let go of things, including those that you love the most.
Don't miss “The One and Only Ivan.” It premieres Aug. 21 on Disney+.
Be sure to catch my N2Entertainment.net movie talk segment on the Kitty O'Neal Show Fridays now at 6:20 p.m. on radio station KFBK 1530 AM and 93.1 FM.
Check Out This Trailer For "THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN"
Lana K. Wilson-Combs is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics’ Association (BFCA), The Black Film Critics Circle (BFCC), The Alliance Of Women Film Journalists (AWFJ) and a Nominating Committee Voting Member for the NAACP Image Awards.