2017 is a year known for mediocre animated feature films, except of course for The Lego Batman Movie and Coco. What a drag… And now we have Ferdinand, which is based on a children’s book by Munro Leaf and Robert Lawson, that stars WWE superstar John Cena voicing the main role of Ferdinand, and comedian Kate McKinnon voicing a weirdo goat named Lupe. In 1983, Disney released an animated short of Ferdinand that won an Academy Award for Best Animated Short, so this adaptation of the source material has to bring something new and fresh in order to make the character of Ferdinand relevant again.
Taking place in Spain, Ferdinand is a Spanish fighting bull who ironically doesn’t want to fight with matadors in arenas, and instead he desires to be free and smell flowers. Taken good care of by a sweet girl named Nina (Lily Day) and her father (Juanes), Ferdinand has to figure out whether he wants to participate in bullfighting or live with his owners and smell flowers all the time.
John Cena really carries the film in his first-ever leading role in an animated feature. For someone who is known for being tough and wrestling for many years, Cena adds a lot of likability to Ferdinand and makes us care about him. It’s a good message for kids, teaching them to be themselves and follow what they truly desire. The voice work from other actors is also terrific, especially the scene-stealing David Tennant who voices a Scottish bull named Angus. Bobby Cannavale, Anthony Anderson, and Peyton Manning also have some fun moments, especially in the second act. Kate McKinnon is the only one who feels like she’s voicing for a completely different movie. Just because a film is animated, it doesn’t justify characters acting super cartoony all the time. While it’s easy to notice she’s trying to be funny by overacting, it’s kind of jarring and sometimes it detracts from the movie. If she were to take it back a bit and try to ad-lib normally, it could have improved her character.
It is touching at times and does have some emotional moments, but the humour in this film needs some work. Some of the jokes land, and some of the jokes are just stupid in the wrong way. Just saying- butt jokes are tiring for adults, even if kids will undeniably find it hilarious. The movie is only 107 minutes, which is fine, but it does have some pacing issues in the second act that might bore children. The beginning perfectly sets up Ferdinand as a character, but unfortunately it feels rushed at times, which doesn’t really give him a lot of development. If there’s another word to describe the film, it would also be “predictable”. You won’t walk out of the theatre thinking you’ve never seen anything coming.
As a whole, Ferdinand isn’t breaking any new ground, but if you’re looking for a fun movie to watch with your family, this might be it. Luckily, Blue Sky Studios is back on track, bringing us an enjoyable and occasionally funny film about a bull that loves to smell flowers.
Ferdinand is now playing in theatres.