Welcome to a review of a film that dared to go against Star Wars: The Last Jedi at the box office. This is Ferdinand!
IMDb summary: After Ferdinand, a bull with a big heart, is mistaken for a dangerous beast, he is captured and torn from his home. Determined to return to his family, he rallies a misfit team on the ultimate adventure.
The list of writers on Ferdinand is quite extensive. Robert L. Baird, Tim Federle, and Brad Copeland wrote the screenplay, while Ron Burch, David Kidd, and Don Rhymer received the story credits. The original source material – the children’s book The Story of Ferdinand – was written by Munro Leaf and Robert Lawson. Even though movies with a lot of writers rarely turn out well, Ferdinand proved to be the exception.
To begin with, Ferdinand critiqued some elements of the Spanish culture quite bravely. The element I have in my mind is the Spanish bullfighting also known as corrida. I expected the film to shy away from the more violent and controversial aspects of corrida – mainly, the killing of the bulls. However, the picture surprised me by taking that element and making it into one of its main plot points. The corrida killing of bulls also allowed Ferdinand to have the good old dead parents trope that all children’s’ movies use way too much. The anti-corrida idea also seemed just a tad bit pro-vegetarian too (honestly, knowing the spread of vegetarianism and veganism, I’m surprised we hadn’t got a more overtly explicit movie about such lifestyles). While I would like to praise Ferdinand’s writers for not being afraid of angering a whole culture, I wish that they would have included some more celebratory elements of it to balance out the critique (and to maybe avoid the backlash). Some more Spanish cultural traits (maybe some Spanish words, dances or settings) could have been included too.
Not only did Ferdinand have some things to say about Spain, but it also had some other national stereotypes as characters. The horses in the film were German (I personally didn’t see the connection between the animals and the country), while one of Ferdinand’s bull friends – Angus – was Scottish. While that character was just the typical stereotype of the Scottish people, it wasn’t offensive one. In fact, everything to do with Angus got a very positive reaction from the audience in my screening in Scotland.
Ferdinand also tackled some interesting ideas about animal gene development with that Frankebull character and presented an idea of a calming goat (which is a real thing, if Daily Mail is to be believed). In addition to all the innocent humor, the movie also had some lovely message about being oneself rather than sticking to the plan that others have formed for you. It also had a neat idea about pacifist not being cowards and celebrated pet (an unlikely pet but still a pet) and human friendship as well.
Ferdinand was directed by Carlos Saldanha of Ice Age and Rio films. He did a good enough job with the film. The animation was adorable (the ear wagging was the cutest thing ever). The dance battle sequence came a bit out of nowhere but was, nonetheless, fun. The finale was also super silly but also lovely. The Nick Jonas song Home was a good choice as the main theme for the movie. In general, Ferdinand wasn’t super unique but it was perfectly serviceable children’s film. Plus, I sort of felt a personal connection to it because it reminded me of an animated feature about cows that I loved as a child – Home of the Range.
The main character Ferdinand was voiced by John Cena, who was the perfect fit for the character. The film had a tonne of jokes about Ferdinand being gigantic and they sounded even funnier when one realized how John Cena looks in real life (bigger than an average human). Kate McKinnon (Ghostbusters, Rough Night) was fun to listen to in the role of the goat – also, in her most PG role yet. Lastly, my beloved Scottish bull was voiced by none other than the Doctor and Kilgrave himself – David Tennant.
In short, Ferdinand is a cute little children’s’ movie that is perfect for the holiday season.
Trailer: Ferdinand trailer