“Ferdinand” stars John Cena, Kate McKinnon, Gina Rodriguez, Gabriel Iglesias, and Bobby Cannavale. Released on December 15, 2017, the film is about a lovable bull who must find his way home when he is taken to a bull-fighting stadium.
The film is directed by Carlos Saldanha, who also directed films such as Ice Age: The Meltdown and Rio. It is based on the 1936 children’s book, The Story of Ferdinand, by Munro Leaf. For the last two years, we witness a family film going up against a Star Wars movie. Last year, we have Sing and Rogue One, and the year before that, we have Alvin and the Chipmunks and The Force Awakens. This year appears to be no different, with The Last Jedi competing against an animated film adaptation of the beloved children’s book that revolves around the world’s nicest bull. Now this isn’t the only adaptation of the book. Back in 1938, Walt Disney adapted the story as an animated short called “Ferdinand the Bull”, and went on to win an Oscar for Best Short Subject. This latest version comes from Blue Sky Studios, the same animation company that brought us five Ice Age movies and The Peanuts Movie. While the studio has done well in creating some entertaining animated movies, they haven’t done a whole lot to impress critics, with Ice Age: Collision Course being the worst-reviewed film in their library. Will their take on the children's book be able to get them back on track? Let’s find out.
If you’re familiar with the source material, you’re going to have no problem following the story. It’s a simple tale about a bull named Ferdinand (voiced by John Cena) whose heart is as big as…well, his entire body. When he gets sent to a bullfight training area due to an incident, he must find a way to escape while staying true to his kind self. Like the other movies from Blue Sky, the story in “Ferdinand” is pretty straightforward. While it does have its predictable moments and its inability to deepen its storytelling, it has enough charm and humor to make people’s hearts feel cuddly and warm just like the title character’s. The film offers a pretty impressive voice cast, including Cena, Kate McKinnon, and former football quarterback Peyton Manning. John Cena was a perfect fit for Ferdinand. His character is practically the animated version of himself. Big, strong, and gentle. The character of Ferdinand was nicely developed for kids because he’s not afraid to be himself despite what other people (or other bulls) think of him. This is one of those types of films that expresses the fact that staying true to one’s self can really make a difference. It’s simple, yet affective. The animation in the film has its usual sense of color and cartoonish slapstick like the other Blue Sky Studios titles. It’s silly for the kids, but it’s nicely rendered for the adults. The movie’s sense of humor has done plenty to keep me laughing all the way through, but as always, it’s not for everybody. It can be pretty goofy during some moments, and there were moments that can get a bit obnoxious for people who have low tolerability levels. The example for the latter is Ferdinand’s companion, Lupe, who is voiced by McKinnon. If you’ve seen McKinnon’s other works like the Ghostbusters reboot and Masterminds, you can clearly understand why they got her to voice the character. I thought she did a really nice job in her role, but her character’s personality can get a bit annoying in certain occasions, especially during the parts where she is just used as a tool for humorous slapstick.
Overall, Blue Sky Studios’ take on “Ferdinand” might not win a lot of major animation fans over, but in terms of its story, its themes, and the animation, its heart is definitely in the right place. It doesn’t top The Peanuts Movie as my favorite animated film from Blue Sky, but I will say that it’s a big improvement over Ice Age 5. It’s a charming and funny film whose themes still remain true to this day. If you or your child are familiar with the source material, I can assure you that you won’t be disappointed with this. Plus, it serves as a nice alternative for families who are waiting impatiently to see Star Wars.