Disney+’s The One And Only Ivan Reviews Are In, Here’s What The Critics Are Saying

The One and Only Ivan Ivan and Bob hanging out in the enclosure

While we’re gearing up for the ultimate test of Disney+’s might thanks to its Premier Access release of Disney’s Mulan next month, the platform is still releasing plenty of content to talk about in the meantime. This week is no exception, as the live-action/CGI adaptation of Katherine Applegate’s heartfelt novel, The One and Only Ivan, is making its way to Disney+. The flick features Bryan Cranston, Sam Rockwell and Angelina Jolie, among a star-studded cast that populates this cinematic rendition of the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, and now we’ve got our first indications of how critics have taken to this particular adventure.

Reviews are finally coming in for The One and Only Ivan, and as with any other film of its ilk, there is are a lot of opinions on how director Thea Sharrock’s Disney+ feature stacks up. So naturally, we’re going to share those takes with you, starting with CinemaBlend’s own Dirk Libbey. He saw The One and Only Ivan and had the following to say in his review, in which he gave the film three and a half out of five stars:

While there a couple of odd quirks to The One And Only Ivan, in the end the emotional moments still hit you like a ton of bricks.

What’s interesting to note about this new Disney+ film is the fact that The One and Only Ivan’s story is based on a very true tale where animal activists campaigned for the release of the real life Ivan. That sort of story can both be fun for the family, but also be a bit muddied by the waters of fiction and humor. Even with that, critic Clarisse Loughrey from The Independent rated The One and Only Ivan at three out of five stars, and praised the film in her positive review. However, she did have a bit of a caveat when it came to the film’s humor:

A few clumsy jokes aside, including an extended bit on chickens crossing roads, there’s much to admire about The One and Only Ivan.

The One and Only Ivan certainly does have its detractors though, and one of them is USA Today’s reviewer, Brian Truitt. Weigh the film as a two out of four star effort on his publication’s scale, Truitt saw potential in the tale of a gorilla yearning for freedom and the adventure that ensues. Unfortunately, that promise was deflated in this specific context:

With an all-star cast of talking critters, The One and Only Ivan could have been a thoughtful movie about the relationship between humans and animals but is instead defanged by Disney-fied family-friendliness.

EW’s Maureen Lee Lenker initially sounded like she was on the same side of the fence as Brian Truitt, as her reaction to The One and Only Ivan does seem to confirm a mixed bag of tones and humor being present in the narrative. But her grade of a B was apparently backed by Lenker latching onto the film’s overall uplifting message:

It just needs some help getting through the weeds of everything else that’s been laid in its path in an attempt to ham things up for the kids, rather than letting the purity of its earnest message shine.

Finally, we have IndieWire’s Kate Erbland with her opinion of The One and Only Ivan, and it pretty much solidifies what most critics have been saying about the film in her review. Giving the film a B grade and citing how the movie definitely has the kids in mind with its big ideas, the overall effort sounds like it was worth it, as Erbland praises the film thusly:

By the time the credits roll and Ivan is introduced as being based on a very real gorilla, mall job and all, questions will already be at a fever pitch. Ivan, it seems, would have loved that.

For the most part, the consensus seems to be that The One and Only Ivan will be a welcomed respite for audiences in a world eager for entertainment. But with that entertainment comes some hiccups in tone and execution, while still landing some emotionally beautiful and devastating moments. You can see it all for yourself when Disney+’s The One and Only Ivan debuts this Friday, on a Disney+ friendly device near you.

Mike Reyes
Senior Movies Contributor

Mike Reyes is the Senior Movie Contributor at CinemaBlend, though that title’s more of a guideline really. Passionate about entertainment since grade school, the movies have always held a special place in his life, which explains his current occupation. Mike graduated from Drew University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science, but swore off of running for public office a long time ago. Mike's expertise ranges from James Bond to everything Alita, making for a brilliantly eclectic resume. He fights for the user.