Based on Munro Leaf’s classic children’s book The Story of Ferdinand, this big-screen adaptation tells a titular Spanish bull (voiced by John Cena) who prefers to sniff flowers rather than locking horns with other bulls. One day, he manages to plot an escape from his cattle ranch and ends up getting acquaintance with Nina (Katie Silverman). Both of them become best friends, but their happy moments are shortlived when Ferdinand accidentally caused a havoc during the village’s annual flower festival. He ends up being captured and transported back to the same cattle ranch. Soon, he determines to make his way back to his family with the help of Lupe the goat (Kate McKinnon), the hedgehog trio (Gina Rodriguez, Daveed Diggs and Gabriel Iglesias) and his fellow bulls.
First published in Munro Leaf’s classic 1936 children’s book The Story of Ferdinand, the simple tale about a beloved bull-with-a-gentle-heart has previously earned its Oscar glory in Walt Disney’s 1938 animated short, Ferdinand The Bull. Fast forward to 2017, the big-screen adaptation has finally brought to animated life by Ice Age and Rio director Carlos Saldanha.
Adapted by Robert L. Baird, Tim Federle and Brad Copeland, the story is actually nothing that we haven’t seen before. It’s all formulaic at best, complete with the familiar “be true to yourself” message as well as typical slapstick moments and (literal) butt jokes, thanks to David Tennant’s voice performance as Angus the Scottish bull. As expected, some of the humour either try too hard to earn a laugh or tends to miss its mark. But still, there are others manage to work decent enough such as the bull-in-a-china-shop gag and the amusing dancing challenge between the horses and the bulls. The ending, in the meantime, able to get it right with its topical anti-bullfighting message.
As for the voice cast, John Cena delivers a surprisingly acceptable performance as Ferdinand. In fact, he even shares an amiable chemistry with Kate McKinnon, who provides an adequate comic relief as the “calming goat”, Lupe.
Saldanha’s signature colourful direction remains intact in Ferdinand, with enough visual distractions to keep the young ones entertained. This is particularly evident during the elaborate chase sequence, which also happens to be the most entertaining set-piece of all in this animated feature.
Ferdinand is hardly a Pixar-like material, but that’s okay. Given its timely release during this year-end school holiday season, this animated feature does have its own lightweight charm to please most kids and family-friendly crowds.