Plot: A bull lives to fight, or at least that is the mantra at a small ranch, where bulls are raised to compete in the arena. This leads to an environment of intense competition, as all of the bulls want to the best and be chosen to battle the matadors, or at least, almost all the bulls do. A young bull named Ferdinand has no interest in fights or violence, he just wants to chill and smell flowers instead. This leads to him being an outsider at the ranch, so when his father is chosen to fight and never returns, Ferdinand is driven to make an escape. A massive chase ensues, but he manages to evade capture and winds up at a rural, secluded farm. There is he taken in and allowed to be himself, so the pressure of fighting is gone and he couldn’t be happier. Now grown up, Ferdinand is a massive bull, but retains his gentle, loving nature, though of course, he still looks like a fearsome beast. So when he ventures to a flower festival to smell the roses, the crowd panics and that leads to Ferdinand causing unintended damages. He is captured and returned to the old ranch, but can he once again prove that a bull doesn’t need to fight or will he be forced to leave his ideals behind?
Entertainment Value: Ferdinand is a cute, fun movie that returns animation to a more old school approach, which helps it stand out in a crowded field. Based on the beloved book The Story of Ferdinand, the movie is able to bring out a wealth of positive traits and make them stick, while still offering effective entertainment. A lot of the more recent animated features have a mean spirited feel at times and in jokes for the adults, but Ferdinand skips those elements. Not all the characters are nice of course, but the movie deals with them with ways that conveys the importance of being kind and having respect for others. That the movie can push these virtues and never feel forced is impressive, in my opinion. I just found this more upbeat, positive approach to be a welcome, fresh change of pace. But don’t think the movie preaches, as that isn’t the case, it delivers these positive elements through characters actions, as well as humor. So younger audiences will still laugh and have fun, but also learn some valuable, positive lessons. I think a lot of the humor lands, despite the calmer, safer approach taken, though Lupe the goat is a little much at times. The pace is brisk, the humor is consistent, and while it veers a good deal from the source material, I feel Ferdinand captures more of those positive vibes than most will expect. This is a great example of a movie that has some substance, but doesn’t force it and remains a lot of fun to watch.
This movie has a deep, interesting collection of voice actors, with John Cena given the lead as Ferdinand. He seems like a natural choice, as he himself is a massive dude that looks like a beast, but is never afraid to show his softer side. His work here is solid and you can tell he feels a connection to the role, which I think helps him overcome the lesser aspects of his performance. I think it was a risk to cast Cena in the central role here, but the results prove it was a wise choice. Kate McKinnon provides much of the comic relief as Lupe the goat, but I feel she is given a little too much prominence. Perhaps the hope was to take some pressure off Cena, but Lupe is a little much at times, though a lot of her scenes work well. The cast also includes David Tennant, Bobby Cannavale, Anthony Anderson, Gina Rodriguez, Peyton Manning, and others, so a broad scope of talent and mostly rock solid performances. As you’d expect from Blue Sky Studios, the visuals here are beautiful and the animation is a pleasure to watch. I liked the various character designs, giving each of the bulls a unique look and overall design, as well as the incredible level of detail present. In short, Ferdinand looks great and is a lot of fun, with a positive message and effective humor.