Movie review: Ferdinand

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to a review of a film that dared to go against Star Wars: The Last Jedi at the box office. This is Ferdinand!

IMDb summary: After Ferdinand, a bull with a big heart, is mistaken for a dangerous beast, he is captured and torn from his home. Determined to return to his family, he rallies a misfit team on the ultimate adventure.

Writing

The list of writers on Ferdinand is quite extensive. Robert L. Baird, Tim Federle, and Brad Copeland wrote the screenplay, while Ron BurchDavid Kidd, and Don Rhymer received the story credits. The original source material – the children’s book The Story of Ferdinand –  was written by Munro Leaf and Robert Lawson. Even though movies with a lot of writers rarely turn out well, Ferdinand proved to be the exception.

To begin with, Ferdinand critiqued some elements of the Spanish culture quite bravely. The element I have in my mind is the Spanish bullfighting also known as corrida. I expected the film to shy away from the more violent and controversial aspects of corrida – mainly, the killing of the bulls. However, the picture surprised me by taking that element and making it into one of its main plot points. The corrida killing of bulls also allowed Ferdinand to have the good old dead parents trope that all children’s’ movies use way too much. The anti-corrida idea also seemed just a tad bit pro-vegetarian too (honestly, knowing the spread of vegetarianism and veganism, I’m surprised we hadn’t got a more overtly explicit movie about such lifestyles). While I would like to praise Ferdinand’s writers for not being afraid of angering a whole culture, I wish that they would have included some more celebratory elements of it to balance out the critique (and to maybe avoid the backlash). Some more Spanish cultural traits (maybe some Spanish words, dances or settings) could have been included too.

Not only did Ferdinand have some things to say about Spain, but it also had some other national stereotypes as characters. The horses in the film were German (I personally didn’t see the connection between the animals and the country), while one of Ferdinand’s bull friends – Angus – was Scottish. While that character was just the typical stereotype of the Scottish people, it wasn’t offensive one. In fact, everything to do with Angus got a very positive reaction from the audience in my screening in Scotland.

Ferdinand also tackled some interesting ideas about animal gene development with that Frankebull character and presented an idea of a calming goat (which is a real thing, if Daily Mail is to be believed). In addition to all the innocent humor, the movie also had some lovely message about being oneself rather than sticking to the plan that others have formed for you. It also had a neat idea about pacifist not being cowards and celebrated pet (an unlikely pet but still a pet) and human friendship as well.

Directing

Ferdinand was directed by Carlos Saldanha of Ice Age and Rio films. He did a good enough job with the film. The animation was adorable (the ear wagging was the cutest thing ever). The dance battle sequence came a bit out of nowhere but was, nonetheless, fun. The finale was also super silly but also lovely. The Nick Jonas song Home was a good choice as the main theme for the movie. In general, Ferdinand wasn’t super unique but it was perfectly serviceable children’s film. Plus, I sort of felt a personal connection to it because it reminded me of an animated feature about cows that I loved as a child – Home of the Range.

Voice work

The main character Ferdinand was voiced by John Cena, who was the perfect fit for the character. The film had a tonne of jokes about Ferdinand being gigantic and they sounded even funnier when one realized how John Cena looks in real life (bigger than an average human). Kate McKinnon (Ghostbusters, Rough Night) was fun to listen to in the role of the goat – also, in her most PG role yet. Lastly, my beloved Scottish bull was voiced by none other than the Doctor and Kilgrave himself – David Tennant.

In short, Ferdinand is a cute little children’s’ movie that is perfect for the holiday season.

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: Ferdinand trailer

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Movie review: The Big Sick

Movie reviews

Hello!

I had a chance to watch, probably, the most original film of the year and I really want to talk about it. It’s The Big Sick!

IMDb summary: Pakistan-born comedian Kumail Nanjiani and grad student Emily Gordon fall in love but struggle as their cultures clash. When Emily contracts a mysterious illness, Kumail finds himself forced to face her feisty parents, his family’s expectations, and his true feelings.

Writing

The Big Sick was written by Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani. They based the script of their actual relationship and Nanjiani also portrayed a version of himself in the film. Gordon has mostly written for TV before, while Nanjiani has done a lot of acting and writing for TV too. The Big Sick was their biggest writing project to date.

The aspect of the film, which has been discussed the most, was its diversity or, more specifically, the ethnicity/race of the main character/actor as well as the cultural commentary provided by the movie. Everyone in the industry was super surprised that a movie with a Pakistani-American actor in the lead could succeed financially (critical success seemed more plausible) or that audiences were actually interested in a different culture.

On top of being interested in a different culture, audiences just usually look for a quality film to watch, and The Big Sick was exactly that. I thought that it had one of the best scripts of the recent romance films because the relationship was written in a realistic manner. The dialogue between the two people was fresh and actually sounded like an interaction between real people: it had moments of awkwardness and comfort, fun and absurdity but was also very sincere. The slight gendered bickering wasn’t out of place either and felt like a believable part of a modern relationship. The cinematic cliches (e.g. a guy listening to the girl’s voicemails after the breakup) didn’t look forced or cringy but actually seemed cute and natural. Lastly, the way Gordon and Nanjiani wrote the ending of the film was just absolutely brilliant. They didn’t go for a grand reveal and an instant fairy tale conclusion but crafted a realistic ending to a relationship – the kind that people have to work for.

Speaking about the portrayal of a different culture, I thought that The Big Sick was very successful in that aspect. I loved how the film presented a varied Pakistani-Muslim community, with some people keeping up with the traditions more and some less. It was also very thoughtful of the movie to showcase a successful arranged marriage (while it might not be for everyone, it can also bring happiness). In addition, I loved how the movie wasn’t afraid to not just present the culture but to critique it (or even joke about it). One of the best moments in the picture was the scene where Nanjiani’s character voiced his doubts about the culture (are the American lifestyle and the Muslim culture at all compatabile?). I loved how in that moment, he both remained respectful of the culture but also wasn’t blinded by it and underscored the importance of his own personal experience. The inclusion of Nanjiani’s career plot-line into the picture also helped to interrogate the culture from more than not just the romance angle, while it also made the story richer and elevated the whole movie.

Another unique part of the film was Nanjiani’s character’s bonding time with his girlfriend’s parents (I haven’t seen anything similar in recent times or maybe ever). Their conversations were really genuine but also fun. The scene of the mother character showing her daughter’s childhood pictures to the boyfriend was so true to life. The way the parent characters were written to behave at the hospital – writing everything down and googling the symptoms – added another layer of realism to the film too. My only slight gripe was the fact that I didn’t think that the inner problems of the parent’s relationship were necessary. However, their addition to the movie didn’t detract from the main relationship too much.

Directing

The Big Sick was directed by Michael Showalter whose previous picture was also a romantic comedy – Hello, My Name is Doris, which was as unique as The Big Sick. Both of these pictures focused on unconventional romantic pairings, be it because of the age or ethnicity of individuals in the relationship.

I thought that Showalter did a very good job directing The Big Sick. I liked the overall aura of the film: it had the authenticity of a documentary film but was approachable as a narrative film. Plus, although it was an indie picture, it had the continuity and flow of a mainstream romantic comedy.

Moreover, The Big Sick was very nicely paced: the story progressed slowly but never dragged, instead, the movie cleverly took its time to build an emotional core of the narrative. The reveals in the story also came organically and weren’t shocking just for the sake of being shocking. Alternatively, they were, again, more focused on the sentimental impact.

Acting

  • Kumail Nanjiani had a few minor roles on the big screen prior to this picture, though he was most well known for being on the main cast of Silicon Valley (a series that I have yet to watch). I wonder how was it for him to play a version of himself – whether it was easy or extremely difficult and whether he had to withhold or embellish his personality for the camera. Overall, I believe that he portrayed the character’s arc very concincigly and I hope that this film’s success can lead to more movie roles for him.
  • Zoe Kazan was also very good in the picture. Her and Nanjiani’s chemistry was amazing too. Holly Hunter and Ray Romano starred as the parent and did a nice job as well. It was delightful to see Hunter in a better film than her last one (BvS) and Romano actually appearing on the screen instead of just voicing the mammoth in the endless Ice Age movies. Lastly, the film’s cast was rounded out by a whole bunch of stand-up comedians, who all delivered excellent performances.

In brief, The Big Sick is one of the most unique romantic comedies I have ever seen. Not only does it have a fresh perspective and an original concept to explore, it is simply just a very well made movie.

Rate: 4.5/5

Trailer: The Big Sick trailer

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