Ferdinand Might Be A Pacifist, but He Throws Some Heavy Blows at Toxic Masculinity
2017 has been a weird year for movies and there’s no bigger proof of this than the new Ferdinand movie starring John Cena. Why? Well, because Ferdinand was actually more enjoyable than The Last Jedi. Trust me, this surprised no one more than me because I thought there was no point in watching animated movies this year after Pixar’s Coco. Despite my glowing review of that film though, Ferdinand might be the more important movie of the two, because of its message against toxic masculinity.
For those unfamiliar with the source material, Ferdinand tells the tale of a huge bull who would rather spend his days peacefully smelling flowers than fighting in an arena. Now, this might seem cowardly to some, but that’s the mindset that this film sets out to combat from the beginning because Ferdinand is far from cowardly. In fact, he’s incredibly brave because he refuses to abandon his pacifism just because everyone wants him to be a fighter. This is a message that I think is incredibly important today, given that so many kids grow up thinking that a “real man” solves problems with their fists. The casting of John Cena is the exclamation point at the end of this theme, especially since he is best known for his wrestling. This probably makes him the most effective vehicle for this message to all the kids that look up to him.
Speaking of John Cena, I have to give him credit for doing a spectacular job with his performance in the film. Honestly, I didn’t expect much from him given his current profession and the track record of unsuccessfully attempted crossovers from the ring to the silver screen. Now though, I’m beginning to think we’ve got a new Dwayne Johnson on our hands and trust me that’s pretty high praise.
The other noteworthy cast member joining him is Kate McKinnon, who is quickly becoming my favorite comedic actress working today. She brings her quicky, off-putting, yet endearing sense of humor to her role as a goat who befriends the gentle giant. Despite the fact that these two are not traditionally known as leads when it comes to casting, both of them prove to have the charisma to make Ferdinand one of the most delightful films of the year.
Ferdinand is not just a movie about pacifism though. It’s about being who you are, not what the world wants you to be. All of the characters in the film are forced into roles that don’t reflect who they are inside, but it’s Ferdinand who shows them that they don’t have to simply bow to society’s expectations. The bulls in the film all believe that the only choice in life is to fight or become “meat” at the slaughterhouse. However, they slowly realize that there are more than simply two options and their kindness slowly comes out. The joy of this film can be summed up in one simple exchange between two of them after Ferdinand helps one of his new found friends:
Ferdinand: “It was no big deal.”
Angus: “It was for me.”
It’s this that kids NEED to see more of from movies. Characters breaking cliches and showing that it’s ok just to be yourself. I wholeheartedly applauded director Carlos Saldanha and John Cena for their commitment to these themes throughout the film. Best of all, Ferdinand is actually an incredibly fun movie, even for adults. I continuously found myself smiling and laughing along with the kids in the theater. It very probably might be one of the most enjoyable family movies of the year and one that I hope every parent decides to take their kids to see on the big screen.
I was not expecting much from Ferdinand given then track record Fox has had with recent animated movies. However, I was blown away by just how enjoyable it is. While it might not be the very best animated movie of the year, it’s themes and execution of them makes it one of the most important family films of 2017. I can’t say I was looking forward to seeing it, but I will say that it definitely made my day better. So, if you want to do your part helping to make the world just a little bit better for future generations, take a child to see Ferdinand (hopefully one you know, otherwise that could get really awkward). I honestly think it will have a profoundly positive impact on them.