Along with charming animated visuals, spot-on voice talent and nicely paced direction, “Ferdinand” incorporates themes that are very relevant and much-needed for our time.
Inspired by the classic kids book “The Story of Ferdinand,” this new animated offering about a gentle giant of a sweet-tempered Spanish bull brings a new slant to the anti-bullying philosophy so many of us are hoping to instill in this contemporary generation of children.
As we learn from the first frames of director Carlos Sandanha’s movie, even as a young bull, Ferdinand was considered a wimp, constantly picked on by the other young bulls in his ranch’s stables.
Ferdinand would much rather stop and coddle a lonely flower within his confines at the Casa del Toro than engage in the physical combat his peers relish — and both verbally and physically abuse him for avoiding.
The visual artistry of the team at Blue Sky (“Ice Age,” the recent “Peanuts” film) gives the movie a delightful palette upon which Ferdinand’s story unfolds. And perhaps the best part is the clever script that will appeal to both little kids and the adults who take them to the theater — as the humor is definitely works on two levels.
Fortunately, Sandanha and his team also assembled a solid cast of enthusiastic voice talent — including John Cena as the adult Ferdinand; Kate McKinnon as his hilarious goat, Lupe, who steals just about every scene she’s in; Bobby Cannavale; the famed Latin singer Juanes; Gina Rodriguez; Anthony Anderson; NFL star Peyton Manning; Daveed Diggs, and Gabriel Iglesias.
Through a series of events (including an obligatory “bull in the china shop” sequence that actually is pretty funny), Ferdinand’s avoidance of violence — his desire NOT to fight in the bullring — showcases knowledge that is important.While those young bulls back in at the ranch’s enclosure yearn desperately to go face the matador, Ferdinand comes to discover what really happens to 99 percent of the bulls who end up there.
One of my favorite subplots involved the running verbal competition between the bulls and the very fancy purebred horses in a neighboring field, one of them voiced by German comedian Flula Borg, who really lays on the accent. The animated acrobatics those ponies pull of, will make you laugh out loud.
While “Ferdinand” is not an Oscar-worthy film like the current hit “Coco,” this movie is a delightful addition to a year that frankly has been fairly thin when it comes to excellent animated films.
Most important, “Ferdinand’s” anti-bullying message is an important lesson kids of all ages need to see — again, and again.
Twentieth Century Foxpresents a film directed byCarlos Saldanha and written by Robert L. Baird, Tim Federle and Brad Copeland.Rated PG (for rude humor, action and some thematic elements). Running time: 107 minutes. Opens Friday at local theaters.