Ferdinand: Film Review
Cast: John Cena, Kate MacKinnon, Anthony Anderson, Bobby Cannavale, Peyton Manning, Gina Rodriguez, David Tennant
Director: Carlos Saldanha
Based on the Munro Leaf 1936 novel The Story of Ferdinand, Blue Sky's latest animated fare is squarely aimed at pushing an anti-conformist message to kids viewing.
Cena plays Ferdinand, a bull who'd rather smell the flowers than fight even though that goes against the grain of the farm where's he's being raised as a bull to take on a matador.
However, when Ferdinand's father is taken to the arena and doesn't return, Ferdy makes a break for it, finding a new owner in a little girl and her flower-growing father. But one day when Ferdinand's stopped from going to the annual flower festival and despite the warnings from his owners, he makes his way into town.
Seen as a monster, captured and returned to the bull-rearing farm, it looks like destiny's taking its course - unless Ferdinand and his new goat friend Lupe (MacKinnon) can turn it around.
Lacking some of the zanier edges to keep the younger audiences amused, Ferdinand flirts with darkness as it explores some of the reality of what happens to animals and in particular, what happens in the bull-fighting ring.
While Cena makes for an affable big-lug of a character, complete with softer edges, Ferdinand's adventure never fully embraces the wacky until late in the day when it heads to Madrid, and a chase sequence which has vitality, joie de vivre and great sight gags.
But it's a long road to this point - and the filmmakers' desire to not go too dark (for obvious reasons, it's a kids' film) means they flirt with moments that consequently feel under-developed. There's a meat factory near to the bull-rearing farm, there's some shots of a matador threatening Ferdinand (in a badly edited final sequence that loses some coherency) and there's plenty of indication of how meat is murder.
Yet, despite that, Ferdinand never quite finds its feet - it knows that to keep the younger audience in check it needs some lunacy, which it gets with a bull/ horse dance-off, but it's few and far in between.
It's all perfectly affable and solidly animated, but Ferdinand lacks the wow factor, or a stronger emotional trajectory to carry it along.
Not exactly terri-bull, but a no-bull attempt at doing something worthy, Ferdinand's mixed approach to the subject means it never quite hits the marks it should do - but it will keep the kids amused, for some of its duration at least.