Director: Carlos Saldanha
Cast: John Cena, David Tennant, Kate McKinnon
After wondering if cars, robots, toys and — even emotions — are emotional, animators have now turned to cattle. Ferdinand, Munro Leaf’s little big bull from his 1936 book, is the subject of 20th Century Fox’s glossy new film by the same name. The pacifist bovine won hearts back then as well, and was loved by Mahatma Gandhi himself. With this movie, he attempts to do the same with a new generation of millennials and their kids who undoubtedly need a lesson in pacifism in these testing times.
While Ferdinand doesn’t really do much to gain a healthier perspective on life, it does promise a swell time for the kids and a moral lesson to go with it — Don’t be a bully, defeat hatred with love, and stand chest-out when a matador wants to pierce through you. Okay, maybe not take the last one too seriously.
Ferdinand is a sweet calf that lives with his bull-fighting dad in a farm. Much like the Viking’s son who wanted to train dragons rather than slay them, this calf here wants to smell the flowers rather than toss men in fancy dress in the air.
He is bullied as a child but never reciprocates with hate. He is forgiving, kind and selfless. Two legs less and he might have joined Mahatma on his march for tax-free salt.
When his dad fails to return from a deadly fight, he makes a run for his life and finds refuge with a little girl’s family in their home atop a flowery meadow. We see — pun intended — the little calf turn into a bulked up John Cena but his heart is still a pool of sugar.
His massive size though, causes big problems for him when he accidentally ransacks a village. He is sent back to the farm and to the bulls who bullied him, some of who, still hold a beef.
Ferdinand, now not only faces the dreaded, violent job of being a matador’s plaything but also a threat of turning into food if he refuses. It’s death any which way for him but he still has his wholesome spirit and pure heart to find a way out of the mess.
On the surface, the film is a sweet tale of winning over the hearts of those who hate you with perseverance and persistent love and kindness. A noble thought, no doubt. Maybe kids will lap it up quite easily. But as an adult, you know that’s not how the system functions.
Humans applaud the bull and pardon him for his bravery but as soon as the applause dies out and the flowers are swept away and the girl takes her bull home, there is another lined up right behind him, ready to be poked, prodded, pierced all for the pleasure of the paying people. The all-happy, all-perfect ending doesn’t stick for adults when you see the meat hooks hanging from the ceiling of a slaughterhouse.
Of course, it may have never been the makers’ idea to help you feel compassion for the entire species but merely this one bull and his friends. However, how true can that compassion be if doled out in such stiff measures.
Cena’s very Chris Pratt-like voice worked far better than what I had imagined. He was able to emulate excitement, sorrow, hopelessness and glee equally well with a voice that seemed trained in the job for years and we just may be looking at yet another wrestler-turned-actor-turned-voice actor after the success of Dwayne Johnson.
The music, apart from a blaring Pitbull song and an occasional plastic plant singing Macarena, fails to register as anything special. The laughs, as rare as they were, were the sole responsibility of Kate McKinnon’s very hyper calming goat and the three hedgehogs — Uno, Dos, Quatro and their dead brother Tres. David Tennant, as much as I love him in flesh, pulled a Kunal Nayyar with the most exaggerated Scottish accent a Scottish person ever attempted.
Watch Ferdinand if you have a crying kid who watched the trailer and won’t shut up about it. Better yet, drop them in the theatre while you figure out the last Jedi really is in the one next to it.
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