Skip to main content

Review: Ferdinand won’t be the next big hit, but there’s a reason the story endures

John Cena voices Ferdinand the bull.

TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX/The Globe and Mail

2.5 out of 4 stars

Title
Ferdinand
Written by
Ron Burch, David Kidd, Don Rhymer, Robert K. Baird, Tim Federle and Brad Copeland
Directed by
Carlos Saldanha
Starring
Featuring the voices of John Cena and Kate McKinnon
Genre
Animation
Classification
PG
Country
USA
Language
English
Year
2017

Turning a classic children's book into a movie isn't always an easy task (see: every scene-chewing actor to ever take on a live-action Dr. Seuss role). But the six (yes, six) writers of Ferdinand have done an able job of translating the 1936 book to the screen for the second time (Disney released an Oscar-winning animated short called Ferdinand the Bull back in 1938).

Directed by Carlos Saldanha, the film follows a similar theme to his other movies for 20th Century Fox: the first three Ice Age films (they're up to five now) and both Rio and Rio 2 – a loner animal needs to wrangle a ragtag group of other animals to save the day. Will they succeed? Only with a touch of mettle, a dash of tenacity and a heaping dose of friendship, of course.

Here, Ferdinand is the runt of the bull litter, who would rather sniff flowers than fight resident tough guy Valiente. He manages to escape Casa del Toro, the farm he grows up on, to be discovered by young animal lover Nina. He lives on her father's flower farm, munching on carrots and having high jinks until he grows up to be an adult bull voiced by John Cena. When the family head to the town's flower festival without Ferdinand (he's getting too big to be around the townsfolk), he sneaks off the farm, gets captured, and is sent back to seemingly the only bull farm in all of Spain, Casa del Toro.

Story continues below advertisement

There, he meets Lupe the comfort goat (Kate McKinnon) and reunites with his former bull mates, including tormentor Valiente (Bobby Cannavale). Valiente's view, shared by the other bulls, is, "You're either a fighter or you're meat." While Ferdinand still refuses to fight, the bulls are judged by toreador El Primero (Miguel Angel Silvestre) and farm owner Moreno (Raul Esparza, who Law and Order: SVU fans will recognize as Rafael Barba).

Some predictably wacky stuff ensues, including the introduction of adorable hedgehogs Una, Dos and Cuatro ("We don't speak of Tres!") and snooty German horses Hans, Klaus and Greta, before a madcap adventure through Spain (set to a Pitbull song, for some reason) and an unsurprising conclusion.

The story is fine enough for the younger set, but a few quibbles remain: For a film set in Spain, few people in this universe speak Spanish, save for the most basic words, and those who speak English have particularly American accents. And what a coincidence, when these aren't Dr. Doolittle-style talking animals (humans around them don't understand them), that Nina would opt to name her bull his actual name!

Also, for a bull-themed movie, there was a dearth of bull puns, save for a particularly slapsticky scene in which Ferdinand finds himself literally a bull in a china shop. Not even one "bull spit!" or anything. Come on, six credited writers, give us something.

Ferdinand is not going to be the next Frozen or Lion King or even the fourth or fifth Ice Age movie, but there's a reason the story is still being told some 81 years after it was first published. Its lessons – be true to yourself, go your own way, and don't let society tell you what you should or shouldn't be – are just as applicable today as they were then. And that's no pile of bull.

Ferdinand opens Dec. 15.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Comments

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • All comments will be reviewed by one or more moderators before being posted to the site. This should only take a few moments.
  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed. Commenters who repeatedly violate community guidelines may be suspended, causing them to temporarily lose their ability to engage with comments.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.
Cannabis pro newsletter