I don’t particularly like going to the movies with kids. I find the experience fairly draining as I spend most of the time making sure they’re OK, checking if they’re having fun, if it’s not too loud, if they can see OK and if they’re not scared by the monster on the screen…then there’s the constant checking if they need to pee, making sure that they’re not wriggling, not kicking the back of the seat in front, not whispering and not the authors of one of the many aromas that unavoidably invite themselves to children matinees.
But on the particular Sunday of the 31st of December, after a week of festivities with the aforementioned kids, I found the idea of going to a place where talking is frowned upon and sitting quietly in the dark is encouraged particularly appealing. So off we set, to the 10am screening of Ferdinand.
I do like cartoons and animations, particularly Toy Story, Shrek, Aladdin, Despicable Me, or more recently, Sing. So, I was looking forward to being thoroughly entertained.
I was entertained.
Not thoroughly though. My socks stayed firmly on my feet. I was just unable to get myself completely immersed in the movie. I initially thought it might be because I had kids to keep an eye on, but after one parent blurted out loud, “Oh for fuck sake!” when his hyperactive toddler – who was jumping on his seat – knocking his popcorn off in the process, I decided that most judgmental eyes would be cast on that poor sod from then on in so I smugly sat back, relaxed and resisted the urge to check my emails, wondering if the fish in the fridge had another day left in it before spoiling, wondering if the kids would notice I ate half of their Smarties and tried to resist worrying about the company’s monthly reports due on the 4th, praying that someone would finally man up this year and shoot Donald Trump and ultimately resisted the urge to think if my new potato ricer would also work on celeriac, while on the screen, a slightly overused style of montage showed an adorable baby bull growing up to the sound of heart-warming pop music.
Ferdinand, a young and peaceful animal who doesn’t want to fight, escapes the ranch after his father never makes it back from the corrida. He is rescued by a little girl and her dad and spends a joyful youth by their side, growing flowers. He ends up back in the dreaded ranch training the fighting bulls after accidentally coming across as dangerous. He has to overcome numerous obstacles to not only escape, but also to save all the other bulls, including the mean one, his childhood nemesis who has always mistaken him for one of the pansies Ferdinand enjoys smelling.
But Ferdinand is no pansy. He is brave and tough, with a strong sense of ethics and justice and peace and love. However he is pretty un-flawed and a bit boring with it. He’s just your average, standard kids’ movie main character. So standard in fact that he lacks a certain je-ne-sais-quoi to make him forgettable.
In fact the whole movie is pretty formulaic, following a pretty schematic string of events: young main character overcomes childhood trauma such as separation from a parent (see Bambi, The Lion King, Tarzan, The Jungle Book) who generally was an amazing, wise role model. Orphan hero is then rescued by some endearing characters before some dramatic event happens, turning our hero’s carefree life into an obstacle-laden ordeal in which they will get the opportunity to prove their worth to the world. The hero is generally accompanied in their adventures by some kind of unnerving klutz ally, (think Shrek, Nemo, Ice Age) in charge of providing all the laughter. The balance will be restored at the end though, when, after one final dramatic moment in which someone will appear dead but won’t be, the movie will reach its majestic tear-jerking ending, complete with more feel-good pop music.
Fortunately most children at which the movie is aimed haven’t got my shrivelled heart, so their own tickers, plump with the juicy innocence of youth, will love the charming bull. Their warm little souls, yet untouched by adult cynicism, won’t be thinking that there is no way the asshole bull would turn nice in real life, and they will just love how he ends up turning good. They won’t notice how predictable or forgettable the movie is as they will be too busy enjoying the quick pace, the gorgeous animations, the German dancing horses, the Scottish bull, the funny scenes in which an enormous bull tries to make himself scarce, and, last but not least, the numerous jokes involving bottoms.
Review by B.F. Jones
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