By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)
Based on the children’s book, The Story of Ferdinand, by Munroe Leaf (author) and Robert Lawson (illustrator), this family, feature-length film expands on the short story about the peaceful, flower-loving bull and works as a delightful and charming piece. Working with a screenplay by Robert L. Baird, Tim Federle, and Brad Copeland, director Carlos Saldanha and great cast of voice talents have created an entertaining movie that also offers some subtle commentary about the treatment of animals without being too heavy-handed. The movie probably won’t win any animated film awards for the year, but this will matter very little to the child audience members who are in store for a fun time.
Raised on a ranch where bulls are raised for fighting, Ferdinand (John Cena) falls in love with flowers at a very young age. While all the other calves admire their bull-fighting fathers and hope to follow in their hooves one day, Ferdinand always has his nose in the petals of flowers admiring their scents and beauty. The young Ferdinand eventually escapes the ranch and ends up in the more loving and caring home of Juan (Juanes) and his daughter Nina (Julia Saldanha) a father and daughter who grow flowers on their property. When an awkward mishap ends with disastrous results, the fully grown Ferdinand ends up recaptured and back in his original home where he is once again groomed for the bull fights.
Saldanha and his writers manage to add a little more meat to the Ferdinand short story without taking anything away from its lovely messages. If anything, the Ferdinand character gets better developed and fleshed out for his feature film treatment. The other bull characters are developed solidly as well with some of them serving as comic relief. Not all of the humor is exceptional, but enough works to keep both adults and children entertained. The cast assembled for the characters’ voices delivers extraordinary work.
John Cena is perfectly cast as Ferdinand the bull. Cena has the appropriate gentle voice for the sweet bull and has the right acting chops to bring the animated character to life. Kate McKinnon definitely has the comedic skills and the vocal range to voice Lupe the goat, an awkward outcast who aspires to coach and train bulls for fighting, but only finds respect from Ferdinand. Other bull voices come from David Tennant, Bobby Cannivale, Anthony Anderson, Peyton Manning, and Bill Nordquist. Each actor is superbly cast for their respective character. Gina Rodriguez, Daveed Diggs, and Gabriel Iglesias lend their voices and comedic talent to three hedgehog characters who befriend Ferdinand and do so with mostly funny results.
And because the film has enough entertainment value for adults as well as children, parents and other adults taking children to this movie should not have any qualms about sitting through it. It is a fine family movie with lovely and colorful animation and plenty of heart and humor. I know this movie faces some really tough competition by Star Wars: The Last Jedi, but not everyone bought advance tickets to the first weekend showings and not everyone wants to battle those crowds. So for those not watching Star Wars this weekend and looking for mild and lovable family entertainment, Ferdinand would make for a very good matinee at the cinema.