MY FRIEND HAD A NAME FOR those types of individuals; she called them, “Happiness Vampires.” It was the perfect name I thought. A “Happiness Vampire” is a person who cannot celebrate and be a part of someone else’s happiness; they instead try to suck the happiness out of that person. I would even go a step further by saying these “Happiness Vampires” only feel good about themselves when someone else is feeling bad. That is so twisted I think. I believe all of us have encountered these dour people sometime in our lives, even if they were not at the time acting out on their negativity. My friend who came up with this term figured it out after dating this person for almost one year. I guess because she was in the throes of falling in love, she did realize what he was doing to her. His method was like a sneak attack because he would appear to be happy and congratulatory for her, but then would express these negative scenarios or possible repercussions that could happen to her. Pretty soon her good mood would dim and turn sour, leaving her depressed while her “boyfriend” would build himself up as her shining knight who would save her. I was so happy when she finally dumped him. RECENTLY I ATTENDED A DINNER PARTY where I encountered a guest who turned out to be a “Happiness Vampire.” It was an elegant affair with some prominent people in attendance. When I was introduced to this one individual I suddenly was hit with a bad feeling. It was as if the air was being sucked out around me with a vacuum cleaner. He was short and squat in stature; if you would place him at a fast food restaurant’s salad bar he would fit in perfectly. The person who introduced me to this individual was a successful financial man in his own right; however, this sour man quickly took an opportunity to build himself up by tossing a negative comment (some say back-handed compliment) about this prominent person. The reason he did such a thing was to talk about something he felt was a big success in his career. I caught it right away and just stood there listening to this man go on about his so-called accomplishments. The real successful individual also stood there with a smile on their face that looked like it was painted on with Botox; it did not budge the entire time the other man carried on about himself. He tried to take away our good feelings like the Grinch in this animated, family comedy but we did not let him succeed. BASED ON DR. SEUSS’ BELOVED BOOK, “How The Grinch Stole Christmas;” this movie had Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game, Doctor Strange) voicing The Grinch, Cameron Seely (The Greatest Showman, The Jim Gaffigan Show-TV) voicing Cindy-Lou Who, Rashida Jones (The Social Network, Parks and Recreation-TV) voicing Donna Who and musical artist Pharrell Williams as the Narrator. This story has been done many times before in different mediums; so, there was nothing new that came as a surprise except of all things Benedict’s performance. I did not care for his vocal acting; I thought he was not sinister enough for the character. Visually the movie was fun to watch (even the ending credits) and I enjoyed some of the Grinch’s exploits; but I felt this version of the Grinch was more of a lightweight compared to those Grinch’s of Christmas past. This film is well suited for younger children, but adults may get a bit tired of it. Of course, if you have never seen a movie version of Dr. Seuss’ book before then you might want to check this picture out; it almost seems as if it is a holiday tradition.
2 ¼ stars
IT WAS GOING TO BE A LONG flight for her, but that was not the part that worried her family. It was her decision to travel to a country that had internal strife, in addition to areas of extreme poverty. She was a seasoned traveler, having visited multiple continents numerous times. Her relatives were more concerned about this trip because her appearance would make her stand out in an unfavorable way; at least, that is what they were led to believe. Their fear was based on what they heard as opposed to what they had experienced. There were news reports about pockets of conflict which easily could justify the family’s concerns. But their fear had been fueled for several years from other sources, some of them more opinions than facts. Because of these fears the family insisted the traveler contact them at specific times throughout her trip. She agreed to it just to calm everyone down. When she landed at her destination she messaged everyone back home, telling them the flight was fine and she was okay. Her trip wound up being quite memorable in a positive way. She was glad she did not fall into her family’s fears; for if she had, she would have denied herself the warm and gracious kindness she experienced from so many different people. FEAR IS ONE OF THOSE EMOTIONS that can both protect and prevent us from new experiences, positive and negative. In the neighborhood I grew up in, there were students from a particular parochial school that my friends and I were fearful of. We heard about them from our older brothers and sisters. Since most of the things I heard had to do with bodily harm and abuse, I did my best never to get on those kids’ radar. I went through elementary school never having an encounter with any student from that school. In fact, none of my friends had an altercation or run-in either with any of these students we grew up fearing. Maybe there was an incident that took place years ago between a parochial school student and a public school one. If there was, no one currently had any knowledge of it. Instead they were hearing hand me down information that continued to feed our fears. All of us were reacting from our fear without taking the time to investigate and see if there was any truth behind the stories we had heard. A similar situation using fear was the basis for this animated, adventure comedy film. RAISED BELIEVING THE “SMALLFOOT” WAS AN evil monster, no one wanted to encounter one except Migo, voiced by Channing Tatum (Logan Lucky, Kingsman: The Golden Circle). He was convinced they did exist and wanted to prove everyone wrong. With James Corden (Into the Woods, Ocean’s Eleven) voicing Percy, Zendaya (The Greatest Showman, Spider-Man: Homecoming) voicing Meechee, Common (Selma, Suicide Squad) voicing Stonekeeper and LeBron James (Trainwreck, The LeBrons-TV) as Gwangi; this film had all the trappings of being an old fashioned, fun romp. The musical numbers were cute; the action was well orchestrated, and the actors did a fine job with their characters. I enjoyed the humor that had a twinge of sarcasm in it. One of the things I admired about this script was the fact they did not use one specific character to play the evil one. Instead the story used perceived fears as the antagonist and played that out to form a positive life lesson. Now, will little children get the point of the story? I am not sure, but I feel they will at least be entertained. And truthfully, I feel it wouldn’t hurt for adults to hear the message coming across in this movie.
2 ½ stars
THOSE WHO YOU HAVE BEEN FRIENDS with you for a long time hold an extra special place inside of you. I believe this whole heartily because these individuals are the safe keepers of your history. Think about it, your relatives may be familiar with you; but their version is in a different context, based more on family rankings. Your friends may know you in a different light. All of this falls into the analogy I use to describe friendships. Drop a pebble into a still pool of water and look at the rippled rings that spread out from the drop point. The closest and smallest ring represents your inner circle, your closest friends. Each ring moving away from the center point is wider and bigger, encompassing those friends that know you but not in as intimate details as the inner circle friends. At some point the rings of water switch to represent your acquaintances and so on and so on. Your close friends, at least for me, are the ones who can verify your history because they have lived it with you. They also can be reminders of your past. ONE OF THE MANY GIFTS FRIENDS have is the ability to remind us to have fun. I look at my life and notice as I have gotten older it has been a challenge at times to experience fun times. When I was a kid much of my time was devoted to having fun; but as I entered the adult world (at least I believe I am in the adult world) I had to take on more responsibilities. I look at the people around me and realize I am not alone in this situation. It seems as if our responsibilities can consume us if we do not schedule time to have fun. Maybe you have experienced this predicament where you feel like all you do is sleep, eat and work; I have numerous times. With my day job, teaching classes, writing reviews, maintaining the house along with the rest of life’s “chores;” I can get lost in them. This is why I make plans to meet up with my friends from time to time. Granted with all the things I need to handle during the week, I pretty much have to use weekends to meet up with friends; which means I might have to set a date to get together several weeks out. I know it might seem odd to call a friend to make a date 2 months ahead, but it is important that fun remains a part of my life. If you watch this adventure comedy you will understand why. CONSUMED WITH WORK DURING A critical time at his company Christopher Robin, played by Ewan McGregor (Jane Got A Gun, The Impossible), could not take time for himself. That is until an old friend appeared one day. With Hayley Atwell (Captain America franchise, Ant-Man) as Evelyn Robin, Bronte Carmichael (Darkest Hour, On Chesil Beach) as Madeline Robin, Mark Gatiss (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Doctor Who-TV) as Giles Winslow and Oliver Ford (Star Wars franchise, Johnny English) as Old Man Winslow; this movie was ripe to be sweet and charming. I thought the special effects were beautiful of Winnie the Pooh and his friends. A mixture of the script and directing of the cast caused me to lose interest during the first half of the film. It was a surprise to me because based on the trailers I thought I would have fun throughout the picture. It turns out it was not until the second half that I enjoyed watching this story. It is all about fun and at least I got to experience it partially during this viewing; I guess it is better than not having fun at all. Wouldn’t you agree? There was an extra fun scene during the credits.
2 ½ stars
I FELT TRAPPED IN THE MIDDLE of a group of strangers, with no way to get out. It was the weekend and I was a guest at a party where everyone knew each other except for me. The introductions had all been been made as I found myself an empty seat among a small group of guests, who were sitting outside at the back of the house. No one was being mean to me; they just did not engage me into any of their conversations. Well actually there really weren’t multiple conversations going on amongst this group; there was one individual who was orchestrating the conversation. Everyone else was just listening to him and occasionally making a comment or agreeing with this fellow’s statements. As I quietly sat there I heard this person talk on a variety of subjects. He went from camping stories to traveling ones to skiing escapades to stories about his son’s achievements. Since I had never met him before I did not want to make a snap judgement based on a few of his stories. But do you want to know something? As the other guests nodded their approval or chuckle at this guy’s escapades, I could not help but feel that this man’s conversations were simply a way for him to brag about himself. THERE WAS ONLY SO MUCH I COULD endure before I excused myself to find a place to sit somewhere far from this braggart. Later in the evening I discovered an interesting fact concerning that man. It turned out he was the husband of a woman there who had a prominent position with the same company as several of the guests at the party. You may be asking why this was an interesting fact; I will tell you why. There was a reason why this husband spent a majority of the evening talking about himself. With his wife in an important position, it appeared to me he was feeling threatened by it. Sitting with his wife’s co-workers, this man wanted to show everyone that he was just as important or dominant or successful as his wife. Not speaking for the other guests, but now that I knew about this extra piece to the puzzle I felt sad for the guy. Instead of working on his confidence to be a supportive partner in the relationship he had to sit and regale the guests with stories about his so called incredible achievements. I could not imagine anyone at the party thinking any less of him. This animated action comedy has a similar situation with its main character, go ahead and check it out. TIRED OF NOT BEING TAKEN SERIOUSLY as a superhero Robin, voiced by Scott Menville (RoboCop, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire), decided the way to step out from the shadows of the popular superheroes was to get a movie made about him and the rest of the Teen Titans. All they needed was a villain to vanquish and a top director. With Kristen Bell (Bad Moms franchise, The Boss) voicing Jade Wilson, Will Arnett (When in Rome, Jonah Hex) voicing Slade, Greg Cipes (Fast & Furious, Club Dread) voicing Beast Boy and Khary Payton (The Walking Dead-TV, General Hospital-TV) voicing Cyborg; I was pleasantly surprised at how fun this movie was to watch. The humor was sophisticated enough to please the adults in the audience as the script took swipes at the whole superhero genre. Where I had difficulty was the direction of the story; it stayed at a non-stop clip through the entire picture. I enjoyed the old school animation and it fit right in with the sarcastic script. Too bad I didn’t go see this film in lieu of sitting and listening to someone trying to make himself feel important.
2 ¾ stars
AS I LISTENED I THOUGHT IT was an ingenious plan. It was a time before cellular phones and my friend was telling me how her family would take a road trip. When relatives were included on their road trips, involving more than one car, the drivers would create a way of communicating with each other. They would flash their auto lights in a specific way, similar to Morse code, to say they needed to stop for a restroom, a break, gas or a meal. Alternating between the right and left turn signals would mean someone in the car needed to stop at a bathroom. If passengers were getting hungry then the driver would either flash the lights 3 times or tap the brakes 3 times in rapid succession to signal the other driver. I was impressed with the plan and realized the introduction of the smart phone sure made traveling by automobile a whole different experience than what it used to be. If I thought about it I could have questioned why the cars needed to follow each other; but I could understand the reasoning behind forming a caravan. You know, the safety in numbers train of thought. FAMILY VACATIONS PROVIDE A MULTITUDE of experiences. The ones I experienced were predominately for visiting relatives who lived out of state. So, when people talk about the type of vacations they would do as a family, I am curious to hear about them. I remember listening about a family who took nature trips in some of the national parks across the country. There was one trip where they went hiking with their two small children and soon discovered the trail was not geared for a novice; the kids were scared and complaining. I looked up the place where they went and was stunned that someone would look at it and think small children could handle the climb. Heck I was not sure I could even do it! As another example I have some relatives who love getting into the car and driving to obscure tourist type places that you would never find on a “best of” list for vacation spots. They would take a vacation to find the largest ball of yarn or drive to visit the mustard museum in some small town in a different state. Usually they would find a variety of curiosity spots to stop at along the way. I am good with whatever “trips your trigger” for a family vacation; that is why I went to see the latest installment of this animated comedic, family film. FEELING HER FATHER NEEDED A vacation from running the hotel Mavis, voiced by Selena Gomez (Getaway, Spring Breakers), came up with a brilliant idea. She booked the family on a boat cruise. For her father Dracula, voiced by Adam Sandler (The Wedding Singer, Big Daddy), it would be more than just a boat ride. With Andy Samberg (That’s My Boy, Brooklyn Nine-Nine-TV) voicing Johnny, Kathryn Hahn (Bad Moms franchise, Afternoon Delight) voicing Ericka and Jim Gaffigan (Chappaquiddick, Away We Go) voicing Van Helsing; this third installment was more of the same I am afraid to say. Little children might enjoy this picture because of all the monsters; but overall, I did not find much humor in the story. The visuals and animation were certainly fun, but they were not enough to support the feeble script. Pretty much a majority of this film was a series of sight gags. Surprisingly there was a message in the movie regarding inclusion, but chances are it will get lost on the youngsters. The only other thing to say about this picture is to make sure you bring a life jacket or a lifeboat because this boat is taking on water.
RETIRING BACK TO BED I could see the eyes looking up at me from my pillow. As I came to the edge of the bed there lying in my spot, with the covers pulled up to his neck, was our dog. He looked up at me as if to say, “Is there something I can help you with?” I grant you he looked totally comfortable and in place, but c’mon; he already had his own bed to sleep in. Anytime I had to get up in the middle of the night he would immediately jump into our bed once I was out of the room; he was such a character. Dogs have such a beautiful outlook on life I believe. They give unconditional love, get such pleasure in the most mundane of things like a stick or used sock and can be such great companions. To return the favor whenever I would say “doggie massage” our dog would immediately plop down on his side so I could give him a body massage. ANOTHER ASPECT OF A DOG’S LIFE is their ability to instinctively protect a person. However some dogs may have their priorities a bit confused; ours felt the need to protect us from small children. It was the weirdest thing. If we were walking outside and a small child was nearby our dog would stop and stare at them. A low warning growl would be heard despite our pleas to relax. We could never figure out what his deal was about small children. Right now my neighbors got a 2nd dog who is a real cutie. Anytime I walk out the back door and she is in the backyard she quickly crouches down into play mode, with her butt in the air and her upper torso stretched out down on the ground. Her front paws directly out in front of her in anticipation. She waits until I call out her name then bounds over to the fence for me to pet her; unless I am wearing a hat, then all things change. She does not like me in a hat because she will bark at me non-stop, staying just out of reach behind the fence. Despite that quirk I still am quite fond of her which explains why I understood the reason the owner risked his life to find his dog in this film festival winning movie. AFTER THE MAYOR BANNED FROM THE city all dogs Atari, voiced by newcomer Kofu Rankin, was willing to risk his life to find his best friend. Written and directed by Wes Anderson (Moonrise Kingdom, Rushmore) this adventure comedy was so much fun to watch due to the creative animation. If you saw Wes’ movie Fantastic Mr. Fox then you are familiar with this style of stop-motion animation. With Bryan Cranston (Trumbo, Why Him?) voicing Chief, Edward Norton (American History, Pride and Glory) voicing Rex, Bill Murray (Lost in Translation, Groundhog Day) voicing Boss and Jeff Goldblum (The Fly, The Grand Budapest Hotel) voicing Duke; everyone blended perfectly into the well thought out detailed script. I found the story quite relevant and appreciated the way Wes incorporated humor into the political scenes. Now the script is not without a couple of dings; there were a few times where I felt the story dragged a bit. It did not hinder my enjoyment because the visuals were just so much darn fun. I honestly do not know if small children will understand the whole concept of this picture, but I cannot imagine their curiosity will not be piqued. Even if you are not a dog lover I feel you will still appreciate the love between a boy and his dog.
3 ½ stars
NOT ONLY HAD I NEVER seen one, I never even heard about them. Walking into their house for the first time, I was introduced to a pleasant couple who were friends with my friend. They were hosting a get together and my friend brought me along. After the introductions they led us into their living room. It took me a moment to take it all in but across most of the flat surfaces in the room, such as shelves and tables, there were these ceramic gnomes everywhere. It was so utterly odd to me and there were so many of them; all different kinds from wizen elderly males to young teenagers to busy looking females. Evidently the expression on my face telegraphed my surprise for the hosts took the liberty of telling me the history of several of their gnomes. I found out the artist who created them always placed some type of object on the piece as a surprise. Oh and I almost forgot, each gnome had a name and a history about their life. SEVERAL YEARS LATER I WAS killing time in a resale shop. As I made my way through the aisles I came to a section that held house wares. There was an entire shelving unit filled with the same type of gnomes I remembered from that dinner party back then. All of them were lined up into rows as if they were all sitting in a theater to watch a movie. I never knew how much were the original prices for these gnomes, but I could not resist checking what they were being priced at in this resale store. A majority of the larger ones were priced at $5.00 and the smaller ones at $3.00. I had to assume this was a major bargain. What is that saying, one person’s junk is another person’s treasure? Based on the traces of dust covering some of the gnomes I assumed they had been sitting there a long time; I guess there is not a need for people to have gnomes in their house or garden currently. It is funny because I wound up feeling the same regarding this animated, adventure comedy sequel. AFTER SETTLING INTO THEIR NEW home Gnomeo and Juliet, voiced by James McAvoy (Split, The Last King of Scotland) and Emily Blunt (The Girl on the Train, Into the Woods), expected with a little work to have the perfect garden. However when their fellow gnomes went missing the only one who could hopefully solve the mystery was the top detective Sherlock Gnomes, voiced by Johnny Depp (Black Mass, The Long Ranger) and his companion Dr. Watson, voiced by Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave, 2012). The idea for this story was cute in this film. With decent animation and a soundtrack provided by Elton John’s songs I thought this would have been a fun film. Just as I was stunned seeing all those gnomes in that couple’s house, I was dumbfounded by how poorly written was the script. This picture was boring to me; there was nothing funny or cute about it. Maybe a narrow group of children would like this film; but where I expected a theater with children to be noisy, in my viewing there were barely any sounds coming from the audience. I had to fight to stay attentive to what was going on in the story. For the most part I felt myself wanting to doze off, but forced myself to stay awake. It was a late viewing for me, but that was not the reason. Like the fate of Beanie Babies and pet rocks, this movie will probably make it to the discount bin in quick time.
1 ¾ stars
IT ALL STARTED WITH SEA GLASS. Seeing children bent over picking at the ground like hungry chickens, they were searching the beach for bits of glass that had been polished for years by the ocean. I sat on a park bench above shifting my gaze from them to the calming water slipping quietly up onto the shore. As I listened to the kids periodically shouting out they found a piece of sea glass, I wondered where the glass originated. Could it have been a broken bottle, plate or piece of ceramic that was on a boat that had sunk a century ago, who knows? I wondered what the circumstances might have been; maybe the glass had traveled halfway around the world, tumbling over and over in the currents, until it landed right here up on our shore. Each and every piece of sea glass the children collected had all been part of something else from a different time. The thought fascinated me as I imagined a variety of scenarios based on a historical past. Maybe there was a bottle with a note in it that a child from a war torn country threw into the ocean, hoping someone would find it and come save them. AS I WAS THINKING OF the past I remembered my recent trip to the history museum. Seeing artifacts that were centuries old such as mummies and dinosaur bones created pictures in my mind of what life must have been like for these animals and individuals. Honestly I cannot stand camping so how could I have possibly survived back then? With that being said I do wish there was a way I could look into the past and see for example what circumstances led up to the first person who discovered fire. Another thing, I would like to know what caused someone to make a wheel; was it a boulder rolling down a hill or maybe someone tripped and began falling head over heels that made them think about the possibilities of having a round object as a tool. I could go on and on coming up with different scenarios and circumstances. Through my schooling it was always taught to us to look back on history as a guide to where we are now. Now we just enter something into an internet search engine and read about it; I prefer hearing someone’s story about a time gone past. Granted it would only go up to several decades past, but lucky for us this animated adventure comedy delved far back in time to show us what was really going on. THREATENED HAVING THEIR LAND taken over Dug, voiced by Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything, The Danish Girl) agrees to a wager. The wager was based on a game that was called soccer. With Tom Hiddleston (Thor franchise, I Saw the Light) as Lord Nooth, Maisie Williams (Mary Shelley, Game of Thrones-TV) as Goona and Timothy Spall (Mr. Turner, Secrets & Lies) as Chief Bobnar; the movie studio that created this film is known for their claymation technique. I love the look of their films and the quirky humor they put into their scripts. Compared to their previous films I have to tell you this one was not one of my favorites. The story was odd with having a soccer game taking place during prehistoric times. As for the script there were some jokes and puns that were not as clever as I have seen them do in the past. Where I could not stop watching their fun previous pictures, this one bored me a little. If I think about it maybe prehistoric men and women did not have the luxury to be funny.
2 ¼ stars
WHAT I AM ABOUT TO tell you actually happened to me, but you will still not believe it. It was going to be our 3rd or 4th date, I cannot remember exactly, and I was being asked to come over for dinner to their place. Not being familiar with the different types of wine I offered to bring a dessert which is more my speed. I can still remember the apartment building; it was two stories tall and “L” shaped, broken up by a couple of courtyards. Finding the name on the directory I rang the bell and waited to be buzzed in past the security door. The hallway had a ceramic tiled floor made up of small black and white tiles that formed mini flower patterns. As I was walking up to the 2nd floor I could hear the creaking of the steps beneath my feet. Waiting at the opened door we greeted and I was ushered into a hallway with ivory painted, stucco walls. The hardwood floor looked recently polished. I did however notice some small thing by the baseboard, but did not have time to get a good look as we walked into the living room. THOUGH THE ROOM LOOKED LOVELY with a big bay window with a classic wooden radiator cover underneath it, there were a few peanut shells on the floor; how odd I thought. The shells were quite visible so I could not understand why they had not been picked up. Well I got my answer no more than a minute after I sat down at one end of the couch. A squirrel appeared at the entrance to the room but stopped and remained still as its gaze locked onto me. I remember whispering there was a squirrel in the house but the reaction I got from them was not what I was expecting. They leaned over to a candy dish on the coffee table in front of us and lifted the cover. Inside, the bowl was full of peanuts in their shells; like the kind you get at a baseball game. I was so taken aback as the squirrel was tossed a peanut that I did not have time to stop myself from uttering an expletive. After apologizing to my date, I listened as they explained the reasons why they fed the squirrels in the neighborhood. As if I needed proof I was shown the kitchen where they kept the back door open so the squirrels could come in. Oh and the floor had broken peanut shells all over it; it was disgusting. I barely ate and as soon as we were done eating I ended the evening. Some animals need to stay out of the house; just look what happened in this adventure comedy. WHEN THE NEW NEIGHBOR THOMAS McGregor, played by Domhnall Gleeson (Goodbye Christopher Robin, About Time), moved in next door Bea, played by Rose Byrne (The Meddler, Insidious franchise), hoped he would get along with her friend Peter Rabbit, voiced by James Corden (Into the Woods, The Lady in the Van). Thomas had other ideas. This adaptation of Beatrix Potter’s classic story had wonderful special effects; it sounds corny but the animals were so animated and real looking. The script however was not as good. At one point I felt I was watching a Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote cartoon because it was somewhat mean spirited. I felt the innocence and mischievousness of the Peter Rabbit character was taken away in this animated film. It is a shame because I really enjoyed James Corden as Peter. And if it means anything, after watching this movie I still had a bad attitude about squirrels.
NO MATTER HOW ENLIGHTENED we become as a society there still will be people who judge others based on their appearance. I have seen time and time again someone reacting to another person solely on their outer exterior, never taking the time in getting to know that individual. Recently I was watching a television special charity event, where the host was asking for contributions to combat a particular disability. Throughout the show they would have focus pieces devoted to different families that have a family member inflicted with the disability; one in particular struck me about a woman who could not speak. Pretty much anyone who met her assumed she did not understand them because she did not talk. I do not remember all the details but at some point in her life she was given a computer tablet. Not only was she able to work the tablet, she was able to convey intelligence with a witty sense of humor. I was mesmerized as I saw her conduct interviews with the use of a computer speech program. SPEAKING FROM PERSONAL EXPERIENCES I know how much influence a child’s actions and manner of dress plays a part in the pecking order that gets established among the neighborhood kids and in school. It was rare for a child labeled smart to also be considered tough. If a male showed an aptitude for one of the arts, he would be considered a “sissy.” In turn if a female excelled in what was considered a male dominated sport, she was classified as a “tomboy.” I can see decades ago when activities used to be defined more as a female/male thing; but over time attitudes changed where it was okay if a girl wanted to play a team sports and a boy to enroll in a cooking class. Yet today I still have seen or listened to someone who was discriminated or bullied because they wanted to do something different from the majority, let us say. Maybe we need to see more examples of people showing us how they cannot be fit into a stereotype, just like the main character in this animated, film festival winning adventure comedy. AS A YOUNG BULL Ferdinand, voiced by John Cena (Trainwreck, The Marine), was picked on for not wanting to grow up and fight in the bullring. His size however would make him look menacing which was exactly what a matador wanted in a bull. With Kate McKinnon (Rough Night, Ghostbusters) voicing Lupe, Bobby Cannavale (Ant-Man, Blue Jasmine) voicing Valiente and Anthony Anderson (The Departed, Hustle & Flow) voicing Bones; I thought all the actors were good, but John Cena and Kate McKinnon really brought their characters to life. He was the perfect choice for Ferdinand. I vaguely remember reading this book as a young child and back then did not see or recognize the message that was in this film’s script. Making the story more current was fine; however, there seemed to be a little too much filler throughout the picture. I think for a younger crowd it would not matter; there was enough humor and chase scenes to keep the attention of young viewers. Besides, the animation was fine and I actually liked the Spanish animated settings. The story offered a valuable lesson that I appreciated not being done in a heavy handed way. There is that old cliché, “Do not judge a book by its cover” and in the case of this movie, you might be surprised by what you see.
2 ¾ stars