Directed by Carlos Saldanha
Screenplay by Robert L. Baird, Tim Federle and Brad Copeland
Story by Ron Burch, David Kidd and Don Rhymer based on The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf and Robert Lawson
Starring John Cena, Kate McKinnon, Anthony Anderson, Bobby Cannavale, Peyton Manning, Gina Rodriguez, Miguel Angel Silvestre, David Tennant
I have never seen a bullfight, live or on TV. But, I have seen them portrayed in other movies, and I’ve always noticed a vibrancy about it as the matador stands in the middle of a ring, holding out a red kerchief or scarf to draw the bull’s attention to charge. Ole!
If the above description has you excited for an impending bullfight, I hate to disappoint you, but I’m really talking about Carlos Saldanha’s (Blue Sky’s Ice Age, Rio) animated film, Ferdinand, which is just as exciting.
Set in the Catalonia region of Spain, young Ferdinand (voiced by John Cena) believes life is to be respected and treasured. He is raised on a small farm with open fields of flowers. When tragedy strikes, he is captured and must decide if his fight is dedicated to protecting others or if it is as a fighting bull.
The voice casting surprised me. John Cena, started out as a professional wrestler with the WWE. Like Ferdinand, he is not light on his feet, but he infuses the character with a strength that I have not seen in other animal characters.Kate McKinnon is hilarious as the goat, Lupe. Her wit and resourcefulness are second to none, and yet her monotone inspiration are exactly what Ferdinand needs. David Tenant delights at Angus, the Scottish bull with too much hair and Peyton Manning voices Guapo, a spirited bull. It is Bobby Cannavale as Valiente is the most interesting character in the film. He is always fighting for a place of prominence, literally bullying the other bulls to give him as much room as possible. It was a good match for Cena’s Ferdinand.
Where the voice cast is one of the strongest I’ve seen this year, the story’s inconsistency drags down the full emotional impact. The essence of Ferdinand’s introspective nature comes shining through and the tension between he and Valiente is felt constantly. However, the story felt like three completely separate acts. Yes, Robert Baird, Tim Federle and Brad Copeland made sure to connect all three acts, but it is haphazardly done. They do keep the focus on Ferdinand’s struggles and the final act, is absolutely stunning.
The 3D CGI animation is still a technical marvel to me, but in comparison to other, recent animated films, Ferdinand felt flat. There are sequences where the animation just absolutely shines. Blue Sky did a magnificent job of capturing the facial expressions of the characters. John Powell who was worked with director Saldanha previously, delivers a Spanish – infused score, highlighting the heart and soul of each of the characters.
Based on the children’s novel The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf and Robert Lawson, the folks at Blue Sky Animation and 20th Century Fox have crafted a tale full of heart, ingenuity and ultimately, humanity. The road, which is paved with good intentions, is bumpy, but you’ll find that the journey is worth taking.
2.5 out of 4