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Anjuly Mathai
Anjuly Mathai


This bull’s no bully


Ferdinand is the story of a young bull who hates fighting. He lives in a training camp for bulls called Casa del Toro in Spain. While every bull there wants to be selected to take part in bull fights, Ferdinand is the exception. He’d rather smell flowers than lock horns with other bulls. When his father is taken away to fight and doesn’t return, he escapes from the camp and grows up on a farm with a young girl who loves him. Events take a dark turn when he’s forced to return to Casa del Toro. There, he’s the biggest of all bulls, and made to fight El Primero, the most renowned matador in the whole of Spain.

The story is rather ho-hum in the beginning, when life is all sunshine and sunflowers for Ferdinand in his farm with his gal pal. Sadistically, you only really sit up in your seat when things start going downhill for him and he’s forced to go back to his camp. There, he meets his old friends, convinces them that no bull escapes alive from bull fights and hence, they need to leave the camp with him. The fun really begins when these big fellows stuff themselves into a van with some hedgehogs and a goat and go rollicking towards a gripping climax, with their captors in close pursuit.

One can’t help but wonder where they are headed. They’re not exactly inconspicuous. But then, this is a children’s story, so you need to suspend disbelief and just enjoy this la-la land where bulls dance the flamenco, hedgehogs drive a van and horses speak in really irritating accents.

Like all good children’s stories, this one, too, has a message to take home; in this case, not very subtly conveyed. That strength doesn’t really mean proving you’re the strongest. Often, putting others’ needs before your own and being a team player offer the best rewards. It seems like a rather wimpy message in this age of action movies and superhero culture. Even when the original book The Story of Ferdinand released in 1936, during the height of the Spanish Civil War, it was considered too pacifist and banned in Spain and burnt in Hitler’s Germany.

One wonders if Ferdinand can make a splash when competing against a heavyweight like Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Frankly, I don’t envy the makers, trying to make a fat, dancing bull look cooler than Luke Skywalker and his team. And please, someone teach those horses to talk normally.

Film: Ferdinand

Director: Carlos Saldanha

Cast: John Cena, Kate McKinnon, Bobby Cannavale, Jack Gore, Jet Jurgensmeyer

Rating: 3/5

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