On Friday December 15th, 2017, Blue Sky Studios released the animated movie Ferdinand based on the classic children’s story of the Bull who wouldn’t fight. The movie was directed by Carlos Saldanha and stars the voices of John Cena as Ferdinand and Kate McKinnon as his sidekick Lupe. The movie takes place in Spain and follows the story of Ferdinand, a bull raised on a farm that grows, trains, and sells bulls for Matadors to fight, as he struggles to fit in seeing as how he would rather smell flowers and live a peaceful life contrary to the nature that bulls are fighters. After managing to escape the farm, he comes across a farmer and his daughter Nina who take Ferdinand in as their pet. As Ferdinand gets older, it becomes harder for him to fit in and one day an incident causes him to be taken away from Nina and returned to the very farm he grew up in where he must learn to become a fighter in order to survive.
This movie was very pleasant and satisfactory. It did not reach the levels of a great and phenomenal film, but it does stand as a fun family film to watch with your kids and enjoy this holiday season. I had higher expectations for the film but I can’t say that I was disappointed to the extent of not enjoying the movie. A lot of the issues I believe can be attributed to the direction of the tone the movie chose to work with. Rather than try and be a mostly serious dramatic film, with realistic looking characters and circumstances that try and follow the appearances of the real world. It takes on a much more comical tone as best demonstrated by the animation style, the writing, and the voice acting choices.
The animation was average, lacking anything outstanding to make it memorable or anything awful enough to question how the movie was made. There is just enough attention to detail to where it passes as having decent animation, such as the fur on the animal characters not just looking like flat colors but having some texture, however there is not an enormous amount of detail in things such as the backgrounds. This story is meant to take place in Spain and if it wasn’t for the very little certain elements such as dealing with Matadors and Bulls, the locations and scenery that are shown are not very specific to Spain. Honestly most of the locations could have taken place in America just based on how everything looked. All the characters are designed to look somewhat cartoony so that they can play around with their movements to add to the comedy of the movie. This did not take away much from the film, however the only weird part regarding the animation was the way young Ferdinand was animated. He looked in some scenes as if it was a human body with just the humanoid head of a bull and that was weird to watch.
The writing and story of the film were definitely taken into a much more comedic route with many jokes being written in, many characters having one liners and running jokes throughout the plot. With the exception of one extremely hilarious scene in the middle of the movie, most of the comedy was basic humor that tried to be in your face, typical of average kids films. The message of the movie was simple, nothing extremely powerful or moving, but simple and serving its purpose. It wasn’t anything we hadn’t already seen before in classic family films. I think the biggest flaw with the writing and pacing of the movie was just that they didn’t give us enough time to care about Ferdinand’s relationship with Nina. We watch him grow with her for about five minutes and are suddenly expected to be fully invested in their relationship.
Lastly regarding the voice actor choices, this movie felt very “white-washed” in some aspects. Especially coming from Coco which was another recent movie whose story was driven by the culture it took place within, Ferdinand did not feel like it was taking place in Spain at times. John Cena’s performance as Ferdinand was admirable but just didn’t do enough justice to the character. Having characters like the goat voiced by Kate McKinnon and Ferdinand himself voiced by John Cena felt very “american” and out of place. Now with that being said, Kate McKinnon was actually one of the best parts of the entire film. Her comedic performance was absolutely hilarious and made all the jokes that came from her character hit their mark.
Overall, Ferdinand is an average good film to show your kids. I would give the movie a five out of ten rating. Unless you are a diehard fan of the original children’s book, then I would recommend waiting and renting the movie when it comes out on DVD.
Written by Kiyan Badkoubeh
Directed, Hosted & Edited by: Kiyan Badkoubeh
Crew: Eduardo Flores