Ferdinand voice cast: John Cena, Kate McKinnon, Bobby Cannavale, Lily Day, David Tennant
Ferdinand movie director: Carlos Saldanha
Ferdinand movie rating: 3 stars
The story of a bull whose destiny is to be put in the ring and fight a matador, but who would rather spend his days smelling flowers. Whew! You just know how that would go.
But this film, based on Munro Leaf and Robert Lawson’s children’s book The Story of Ferdinand, is not about ‘finding your destiny’ — at all. Rather, it takes head on rather uncomfortable issues about how humans treat animals, whether bulls ever win in the ring, gives us a glimpse of what might happen to a bull in a meat factory, and is at its most exhilarating when all Ferdinand (Cena) and his group of friends are doing is trying to break out of a ranch, so that they are not put to fighting.
The animation isn’t of the quality we have come to expect, and there is no attempt to give Ferdinand one hit song to call his own. However, on the strength of the different storyline alone, told entirely from the perspective of the animals, and not how we imagine the animals to be, Ferdinand warms up to you. Still, what raises it from its mediocre beginning to the high note it eventually hits is, single-handedly, the superb and talented McKinnon. She voices Luna, a “calming goat”, presumably kept to soothe down the bulls at the ranch. Or so Luna claims. A stupid idea, as Luna herself says, for she would rather be training Ferdinand — whom she takes instant liking to because of his size, towering over the others — to fight a matador.
As the film goes through its paces, which admittedly start dragging a bit towards the end, it is Luna who keeps the lilt, the tilt, the laughs and the life in. And soon, the other actors, particularly Tennant as Angus the bull with his long hair that blocks his eyes, fall in step with her. An exhilarating dance, where the bulls compete with some snooty show ponies, egged on by Luna, is a hoot.
Cena, a former WWE superstar, is a good choice to play Ferdinand. He steers nimbly around the jokes about a bull’s weight, size, and most hilariously, that one, about being a bull in a china shop.