Verdict: An unconventional character done right.
For a nation with a pacifist father like Mahatma Gandhi, Ferdinand is perfect to show that violence isn't the only option, and it's important to accept yourself despite what others may say. An adaptation of a children's book that takes just a few minutes to read, director Carlos Saldhana has given the classic tale of Ferdinand a new life by extending it into a charming film.
What's Ferdinand About:
Ferdinand is a bull that defies all bull stereotypes. While the other bulls practice locking horns at Casa Del Toro, he would rather smell the flowers. When his father is chosen to fight and doesn't come back, a distressed Ferdinand runs away. He meets Nina and her father who just happens to own a flower farm. Here, he grows up in a montage sequence into the giant and still very gentle bull voiced by John Cena. But his perfect life comes to an end when he is captured and sent back to Casa Del Toro.
Once he returns to the place he grew up, Ferdinand's first introduction is to a calming goat Lupe (Kate McKinnon) who's the opposite of calm. With Lupe coaching him to win against the other bulls – the macho Valiente (Bobby Cannavale), the fast and tiny Bones (Anthony Anderson), and the Irish bull Angus, (David Tennant), who can't see past his hair. One of the bulls, Maquina, doesn't speak, but definitely makes his presence known.
But Ferdinand knows that there's a different life out there which doesn't involve fighting a matador or becoming meat and plans to escape with the help of a misfit team of the goat, Lupe, and three hedgehogs, Uno (Gina Rodriguez), Dos (Daveed Diggs) and Quatro (Gabriel Iglesias).
Despite having a vast variety of characters, the plot doesn't become overwhelmingly complicated. From colorful scene to scene, Ferdinand is a bull you never get tired of, especially with John Cena's excellent casting as the lead. There couldn't have been a better actor to voice a character who's a big in size but a gentle soul.
The film also has some hilarious sequences that will have you laughing out loud. Two of them stand out, with the first being Ferdinand in a china shop and the other a ridiculous dance-off between the uptight horses (with the lead horse voiced by the outstanding Flula Borg) and the bulls. Ferdinand isn't also just a pure comedy. Amidst all the humor, there are also touching moments along with a powerful ending. It never loses the core message which the original story was all about – having the courage to become your true self.
What Could Have Been Better:
Releasing just after Coco which so accurately depicted the Mexican culture, Ferdinand doesn't feel as Spanish in comparison. While this doesn't take anything away from the film, focusing on the culture could have added a little more of a distinctive touch to the universal themes of the story.
Why You Should Watch:
Ferdinand has physical gags to entertain the kids and a few clever jokes for the adults. It's also a strong debut from John Cena as a voice actor, who happens to be the heart and soul of the film. If you're looking for a wholesome movie that is going to leave you in a good mood, you don't need to look beyond this.