This heartfelt adaptation is part circus comedy, part animal rights drama, and part escape caper, a combination that should attract the book's many fans, as well as families. Not only are talking-animal movies wildly appealing to kids, but Applegate's beloved (and bestselling) book is becoming a staple in elementary-school, public, and personal libraries, so many people are familiar with the story. It's always hard to condense all of a book's special moments into a 90-minute movie, but director Thea Sharrock, working from White's screenplay, captures the essence of Ivan and his pals' story. If anything, the movie is even friendlier to younger kids, since it downplays some of the animal cruelty and poaching that's more candidly described in the book.
The voice cast in The One and Only Ivan is stellar, with Rockwell's strength and stoicism shining through, DeVito's wit and sarcasm ideal for Bob, and Jolie's dulcet tones perfectly matching the wise, storytelling elephant's demeanor. Khan, Mirren, Funches, and White don't have quite as much screen time, but their supporting characters are sure to connect with young viewers, who are likely to find their personality quirks hilarious. DeVito's Bob, in particular, is responsible for all of the comic relief, while Ruby is just plain adorable. The live-action cast is well served by Cranston, whose Mack is generally a good man but can't see that even a safe cage isn't also a happy home. Julia, however, is almost too magical a child: uniquely perceptive, artistic, and able to translate the animals' feelings better than anyone else involved with the circus. Parents looking for thoughtful family entertainment with strong messages and endearing talking animals will appreciate this page-to-screen film.