In a bullring in Spain, a young bull named Ferdinand does not want to fight. He likes flowers. However, when his dad gets picked to fight a matador and doesn’t come back, Ferdinand runs away to a flower farm. Years later he is recaptured and forced to fight, but Ferdinand tries to convince himself and the other bulls that there is more to life than fighting.
Ferdinand is … I mean it’s … it’s fine, Ferdinand is fine. I always struggle to write about these films because there is really nothing to say about it. For those reading that have children and are thinking about watching this film with them be warned, Ferdinand is one of the boring ones.
Regarding the story, it does not do anything new. You still have a “be-yourself” narrative that is part of every children’s film these days. The beats are predictable, and the message is incredibly obvious. It has jokes that have been done better in other movies, the extended sequence of a bull in a china shop was just one long set up to a joke you already know the punchline to. There are a couple of funny jokes, the first introduction to the Matador is quite quick, and the German show ponies are good at the start, though they tend to wear out their welcome very quickly.
The animation is starting to look a little dated even though it was only released a few days ago. There were some moments in the film where either the footage hadn’t rendered properly or it was missing between frames and it looked jerky. Even when the animation was flowing well, it still looked rubbery and plastic, too clean and perfect, too clinical. In a year that we had The Red Turtle and a year on from Kubo and the Two Strings and Moana, Ferdinand just doesn’t stand out above Illumination’s Minions or any other average computer-animated film. I mean its fine, animation is hard, so being able to do what Blue Sky has is no small feat, its just that it is no longer the cutting edge thing, and that may sound cruel and rather reductionist, but after seeing the same thing for 15 years with no real improvement, the images start to look stale.
There was something that tipped Ferdinand over the edge from inoffensive blandness to mild irritation however, and that was the voice cast. Wrestler John Cena is our lead and while he does have the physicality of a bull and some charm as a live-action performer, it is clear that he is no voice actor. While Kate McKinnon, from the new Ghostbusters movie, as an elderly goat will not stop talking. I suppose she is the comic relief, but in actuality she is a hyperactive irritant. There are other characters besides Ferdinand and Lupe the goat, but they are two dimensional and forgettable.
Really Ferdinand hasn’t got much of a chance up against Star Wars, which was released the same week as this film. It is incredibly ordinary, with bland animation, below average voice acting, a story that was a paint by numbers. I mean this may be the film critic in me talking where I see at least one film a week, and thus I have been tainted by watching too many of these films. If I were pushed to describe it in a week from now all I will be able to say about Ferdinand is that it was a series of bright colours and noises that will entertain children for an hour and forty minutes. If you want to make a trip out to the cinema this week just go see Star Wars instead.
You can watch Ferdinand in cinemas now