Kids movies are winning at the moment, with Ferdinand and Paddington 2 both delightful films for young viewers.
Firstly, Ferdinand, the bull who was a lover not a fighter. The beauty of this film is that it speaks to the viewer on so many levels. The fate of the bulls in this Spanish Provence is not unlike that of the gladiators in Ancient Rome–fight or die, and ultimately, you will die anyway–except that it’s still happening today.
As a young bull, Ferdinand watches his father go away to fight and never return. He decides to escape and finds himself in what can only be described as heaven–fields of flowers, a little girl who loves him, a peaceful life. But when he accidentally causes havoc in the town square he is caught and returned to the bull pit where he must save his friends and face the bull fighter. There are difficult themes here–such as humanity’s treatment of animals and even a scene inside an abattoir–but it is handled so sensitively that the younger viewers (such as my five-year-old son) might not directly understand what is happening. (Thankfully, this saved me from having a difficult conversation with him about animal slaughter and meat consumption, which I’m just not yet ready to have.) If you are an animal lover, you will be moved. Everyone will feel hope. A beautiful film. My only small criticism was that it was a tad long through the third quarter (time was filled with singing and dancing) and my son asked to leave. But he stuck it out and was soon rewarded with some fast action to re-engage him. Four stars.
And then we come to Paddington 2, a charming film that is, in my opinion, better than the first one (and it’s not often you can say that about sequels). I do find Paddington a bit stiff and intellectual for small kids but the physical comedy does seem to counteract it. To my relief, this film isn’t as scary as the first one (which my boy hasn’t managed to sit through at all) and Hugh Grant is just fabulous as the villain Phoenix Buchanan (and Hugh Grant is always fabulous in a villainous role, in my opinion). My son, always short on patience, declared he wanted to leave in the first ten minutes, but I encouraged him to stick it out and was rewarded by him putting two thumbs up at me at the and declaring ‘that was a great movie, Mum’. I’m sure the train chase finale helped.
In this film, Paddington is trying to find the perfect birthday present for his aunty Lucy’s hundredth birthday but his desired pop-up book of London is stolen by Phoenix Buchanan and Paddington is framed for the theft and sent to jail. There are truly delightful moments in jail, especially as Paddington befriends the most feared inmate of all, Knuckles McGinty, played superbly by Brendan Gleeson (of recent film, Hampstead).
Do stay till the end for Hugh Grant’s encore during the credits.