Movie Review: Flowery Ferdinand is Fine

Movie Review: Flowery Ferdinand is Fine
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Tyler Collins

Tyler Collins

Tyler Collins is a thespian and performer who has worked with theatre, film, and TV across Ontario. He comes from Campbellton, NB, and has lived in North Oakville nearly 20 years. Currently, he studies Journalism at Sheridan College. Twitter: @MrTyCollins

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Ferdinand isn’t like most run-of-the-mill family films. Instead of the often-predictable recycling of cheap jokes and slick animation, it opts for charm and thunderous heart. It’s not groundbreaking entertainment by a mile. But it’s entertaining enough.

Blue Sky Studios is famous for their large-scale talking animal stories like Ice Age and Rio. And similar to the original Ice Age in 2002 and 2015’s The Peanuts Movie, the studio makes their best work when they tell original stories with simplicity and charm. Ferdinand has all that and more – it’s a pleasant and inoffensive holiday film.

Director Carlos Saldanha‘s (Ice Age, Rio) newest feature is truest to his Spanish roots, based on the fable The Story of Ferdinand. A peaceful bull in rural Spain (John Cena) lives on a small farm with his owner, a young girl named Nina (a brimming Lily Day.)

When Ferdinand is sent to a bullfighting training area, he must face fighters both human and animal. Finally, he embarks on a rescue mission for his new friends before facing his greatest fear – all so he can return home.

There’s an overwhelming serenity to Ferdinand and his friends, and everything the mighty bull does is refreshingly straightforward. There aren’t any zany or unnecessary subplots. Sure the story and script are a bit too long. At the same time, it’s thematically focused.

Photo: Blue Sky Studios.

John Cena is delightfully earnest and open as the title character. The real scene-stealers, however, is a trio of groovy hedgehogs named Uno, Dos and Quatro, voiced with great fun by Gina Rodriguez, Daveed Diggs and Gabriel Iglesias. (As the film’s best joke suggests, don’t ask what happened to their missing friend Tres! They won’t say!)

Sadly, the temptations of making a pandering animated movie infuse the film. For instance, there are two insipid dance numbers where the critters boogie and jive to popular songs on a radio. There’s one gag with a selfie stick. These elements hinder the picture’s cleanliness and warmth.

Hokey humour often upstages the dramatic heft, but thankfully, the approachable themes and warm message ultimately cut through. Ferdinand as a character is a great role model for families. While the movie teaches us how violence is instigated, the main character teaches us how peace will always overcome resentment and anger.

Blue Sky’s latest effort is unremarkable, yes, but there’s also nearly nothing wrong with it. The final bullfight is a great scene that’s worth the anticipation that builds to it, and many scenes in between are sure to evoke smiles.

Ferdinand is both passable and thoroughly pleasant to watch. It’s certainly less engrossing than other current family movies (like Coco or Wonder,) but audiences who find themselves running with the bulls will have a swell time.

Ferdinand
2 1/2 out of 4 stars

PG, 1hr 46mins. Family Animation.
Directed by Carlos Saldanha.
Starring John Cena, Kate McKinnon, Bobby Cannavale, Miguel Ángel Silvestre and Lily Day.
Now Playing at Film.Ca Cinemas, Cineplex Winston Churchill and Cineplex Oakville & VIP.

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