Although Disney+ has been available since March of this year, most people have been enjoying the slate of older content rather than any of its more recent efforts.
After all, Disney has a library of family classics - from 'The Rocketeer' to 'Homeward Bound' - that are as memorable, heartwarming and enjoyable as the day people first saw them in cinemas. It's telling, then, that their more recent efforts haven't had quite the same impact because it's essentially retreading a lot of familiar ground.
So it goes with 'The One and Only Ivan', which was originally destined for cinemas before it was diverted to Disney+. Bryan Cranston plays a well-meaning but struggling zoo owner whose main attraction, Ivan (voiced by Sam Rockwell), isn't quite drawing the crowds that he once did. The zoo's only elephant, Stella (voiced by Angelina Jolie), is eventually joined and begins to care for a young elephant, Ruby (voiced by Brooklynn Prince), who has no memory of the wild. Things take a turn, however, when Stella falls ill and Ivan has to begin to care for Ruby, even though things at the zoo are becoming more and more complicated with financial issues.
As you'd expect for a movie of this kind, there's not a huge amount of subtlety in 'The One and Only Ivan' around the topics of family or animal captivity, and while it does try and grapple with some of the more darker, adult edges of the story, it's never quite that convincing. The CGI is reasonably well done, and the infusion of personality from the voices really helps to make them come alive, but ultimately, you just know you're watching pixels move around a screen than it have any kind of tactile feeling to it.
The same can be said for the story of 'The One and Only Ivan' too, adapted from KA Applegate's book of the same name. While it does have a heart to it and there's an earnest quality about it, it's a little bit too safe and obvious for it to have any kind of lasting impact. More to the point, it never gives itself fully over to either the fantasy or the realism, simply falling between the two without really reaching either side.
Bryan Cranston does give a reliable performance, neatly blending some emotional beats with an over-the-top, cartoonish English accent, while the deep bench of talent in the voice cast - Helen Mirren, Danny DeVito, Sam Rockwell, Brooklynn Prince, and Chaka Khan (!) - are all recognisable enough to make their presence an interesting one. Chaka Khan plays a chicken, for example, while Helen Mirren voices a prim poodle.
Thea Sharrock's direction is light and gentle, and wrings every drop of sentiment out of Mike White's script for something that may not necessarily be everyone's best work, but is more than sufficient at passing 95 minutes in a pleasant manner.