Parents' Guide to

The One and Only Ivan

By Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 8+

Big-hearted adaptation should please fans of the book.

Movie PG 2020 94 minutes
The One and Only Ivan Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 5+

Based on 17 parent reviews

age 8+

This title has:

Great messages
Great role models
age 7+

Doesn't come close to the book!

My older son and I *loved* this book; the movie plot deviated so much from the book that it was an entirely different story. There was also somewhat saccharine music and acting throughout, which was unpleasant to watch (even without the disappointment of the different storyline).

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (17):
Kids say (28):

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.

Movie Details

Did we miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate