When I read Katherine Applegate’s book The One and Only Ivan last week, I didn’t know it has been adapted into a film. So, it seemed like the perfect choice for my film review this week. It’s an annoyingly common theme within the bookish community that the book always has to be better. That no film adaptation can ever be as good as the written word. I’ve already written a post about how wrong this idea is, so I don’t judge a film until I’ve seen it. Meaning I had to see if this lived up to the book.
One of the great things about the book version of The One and Only Ivan is how accessible it made the story for younger readers. There are some darker themes within the tale and the book manages to make them work. For the film, they take a slightly different approach and try to cover up as much as possible. I get why they did it but it does mean the overall message is slightly diluted. Yes, it’s still a heartwarming and cute tale that also has a message about animals in captivity. It’s just that it doesn’t feel as fleshed out as it should.
The main points of the story are all there but the film adds a few flourishes and takes some things away. Basically, Disney takes the book and makes it a Disney film. They’ve increased the snappy animal banter and included a whole host of characters to get to know. The only problem is, the film is too short to make anything of these additions. The characters are undeveloped and plotlines aren’t given the time to get going. The end result of the film is that it’s been rushed and not really given much thought.
That’s not to say that it won’t be engaging for younger audiences. There are enough fun animals to keep them entertained. It will also have something to teach about animals and their natural habitats. This isn’t a bad film but it’s not a great one. It’s not the kind of film that demands repeated viewing. It doesn’t feel as though anyone who made this really cared about telling this story but just wanted to get it done. I admit that the voice cast are all great and even Bryan Cranston does a good job in his role as ringmaster. The One and Only Ivan is fine but, I had to admit, this is one of those occasions when the book is better.