Ferdinand had the misfortune of having a premiere date sandwiched right between two House of Mouse Behemoths, Coco, and The Last Jedi. It is, however, the former film that Ferdinand will probably be compared to, given that Coco was a brilliant re-imagination of Mexican culture with nuisance, humor, sadness, and depth. Comparing Ferdinand to Coco is almost unfair, as Ferdinand is almost everything that Coco is not. Ferdinand doesn’t even attempt to explore Spanish culture or bullfighting, other than some face value for humor or to service the plot. Ferdinand is a simplistic, but well-crafted animated film about a bull who doesn't want to fight.
Ferdinand is a surprisingly straightforward tale. But this is from Blue Sky Studios, better known as “The Ice Age Guys.” Their best film so far has been The Peanuts Movie, and that’s probably because Charles M. Schulz’s estate had such control over the project. This film lacks any depth, subtly, or entertainment for adults. This film for kids and kids alone. Ferdinand is based on the children's book by the same name, which also tells a similar story. Ferdinand the bull doesn’t want to fight matadors in bullfights, he just wants to smell flowers and be reunited with his human owner. That’s the entire movie. However, I would be remiss not to mention that the film is well animated and looks great.
Most of the characters in Ferdinand are static and one dimensional. Ferdinand, voiced by John Cena, is one of the few likable characters in the movie. He doesn’t have much of an arc to his character at all, but he’s funny, charming, and simply smells flowers and enjoys life. All of the bulls insult and tear into Ferdinand for not wanting to fight, and for good reason. The other bulls all want to fight the matador and have spent their entire lives preparing for this moment. The antagonist bull, Valiente, just wants to live up to his (as well as all the other bulls for that matter) sole purpose of fighting and defeating the matador. Valiente is mean, brusk, and violent but only because he's been raised that way since childhood. He wants to be chosen to fight the matador, to him nothing else matters. He doesn’t want to be a ‘flower sniffing bull’ or worse, a bull not good enough for the arena that ends up going to ‘the chop shop’ (certain death), and I respect that. But, Ferdinand, through his charm and friendliness, convinces them not to fight, and then they all run away with him, including the purposed Valiente.
There are some pretty terrible characters in this movie. The three German stallions are just awful, and their appearance results in an awkward, unfunny dance competition that comes out of nowhere and is just painful to watch. The worst character, however, is the Calming Goat, Lupe, played by Kate Mckinnon, who just won’t stop talking. Her character is truly annoying and obnoxious. Everything that comes out of her mouth is supposed to be funny but is lazily written at best and idiotic at worst. Her character is just terrible and I don’t know why it was included in this movie. Other than the bad jokes, the goat adds nothing but exposition that we could have gotten from the other bulls in the story instead.
Ferdinand is a simple story that will appeal to children but not the adults that take them to see it. Ferdinand is fairly well paced, it’s a decent length, and is also a bright, colorful, well-animated film. But the film’s story is lackluster and predictable, and most of the characters are unlikable or superfluous. However, in the Disney/Pixar era, when we expect our animated films to have some complexity, Ferdinand comes across as rather quaint in its simplicity. Ferdinand isn’t bad per say, but it's certainly forgettable.
TLDR: Ferdinand is a brightly colored, fast moving, animated film, that offers little except entertainment for young children. 2/5 Stars.
-Edited by Austin Toner