'Ferdinand' Perfectly Balances Sweetness and Strength

Ferdinand delivers a timeless message about finding your own strength. Though the tale is nearly 80 years old, its bullying themes still resonate. Based on the 1936 picture-book classic The Story of Ferdinand, this new animated song-and-dance adventure is greatly expanded and vastly rewritten.


2017, PG

Ferdinand (voiced by John Cena) is a young bull who escapes from Casa del Toro in rural Spain when his father “disappears” after a showdown with superstar matador, El Primero (Miguel Ángel Silvestre). Even a baby calf knows that can’t be good news for him, so he hoofs it out of there before he is called to the arena.

Shortly after being adopted by a sweet farm girl named Nina (Lily Day), Ferdinand’s peaceful way of life comes crashing down when the authorities show up to return him to his former captors. With help from a hyperactive goat named Lupe (Kate McKinnon) and three hilarious hedgehogs, the giant but gentle bovine must find a way to break free before he is forced to face the famous bullfighter who never loses.

The last thing our hulking hero wants to do is fight. He’s a bit of a cow-ard, you could say. Or maybe he’s just peace-a-bull. Regardless, Ferdinand would much rather smell the fresh flowers and play in the sunshine with his pals than dodge the bullfighter’s banderilla. As he grows bigger and stronger, sight gags unfold in a slew of sidesplitting scenarios—there’s obligatory LOL bull-in-a-china-shop setup, an equine “Dancing with the Stars” spoof, and a funny face-off with a bitty bunny rabbit.

The animation is very alive, with lots of motion, expression, and color. The jokes involving Ferdinand’s outsized beastly bulk are truly comical, and his horns are often part of the choreography as he—whether intentionally or not—uses them as spikes, prongs, and tines. There’s a lot of heartfelt interplay between Ferdinand and his friends, plus there’s an important lesson to be learned: Don’t judge a bull by his cover. Even though Ferdinand looks big and bad, he’s really just a ton of fun.

On the minus side, the music is relatively bland. Nick Jonas does a standard issue ballad, “Home”. Why not give voice to some Latin or Hispanic songwriters? Shakira or Romeo Santos would have been cooler in terms of tunes, and Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s “Despacito” seems a glaring omission. Well, at least Brazilian director Carlos Sandanha (Rio) and some of the cast (Gina Rodriguez and Gabriel Iglesias as two-thirds of a hedgehog herd, Bobby Cannavale in the role of a bratty bull, and the aforementioned Ángel Silvestre as El Primero) are somewhat ethnically correct. Even though Cena voices Ferdinand with an American accent, he’s got lots of personality.

Ferdinand is funny, good-hearted, and joyfully animated—it’s an ideal family film.

Visit Common Sense Media for more info on this movie’s appropriateness for your child.

Tags : film   movies   animated movies   

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