Mark Reviews Movies



2 Stars (out of 4)

Director: Carlos Saldanha

Cast: The voices of John Cena, Kate McKinnon, Bobby Cannavale, Anthony Anderson, Peyton Manning, David Tennant, Gina Rodriguez, Gabriel Iglesias, Daveed Diggs, Jerrod Carmichael, Lily Day

MPAA Rating: PG (for rude humor, action and some thematic elements)

Running Time: 1:46

Release Date: 12/15/17

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Capsule review by Mark Dujsik | December 14, 2017

There's the sweet and charming side of Ferdinand, the story of a kindhearted bull that refuses to participate in the violence for which it was born and raised, and there's the movie's less charming aspects, which congregate a bunch of kooky characters to accompany the eponymous bull through his passive rebellion against violence. At its heart, this is a simple story (based on an 80-year-old children's book by writer Munro Leaf and illustrator Robert Lawson), but it's obvious that the filmmakers aren't content with simple.

That's a shame, because there are good messages here about kindness and finding one's own way and rejecting violence, even when it seems to be the only solution to a problem. Such lessons, told with sincerity and care, used to be enough. They probably still are, too, but it's becoming rare for filmmakers to trust that instinct.

We get the basics of Ferdinand's (voiced with genuine gentleness by John Cena) story, with his youth surrounded by other bulls who look forward to the "glory" of the bullfighting ring and his escape to an idyllic farm, where a young girl takes him in as her pet, and his winding up back where he started. We also get a goat sidekick named Lupe (voice of a game Kate McKinnon), a trio of thieving hedgehogs, and a quintet of other bulls with eccentric personalities (One has a queasy stomach, and another has the characteristics of a robot). There are also dancing horses with German accents, and yes, the bulls and the horses have a dance-off.

These modes don't necessarily clash, but after the fifth pun/instance of easy wordplay/pop-culture reference, we find ourselves longing for a return to the basics. That's well before the third act, which plays out as a lengthy, four-part action sequence at a slaughterhouse, on the farm, at a train station, and through the streets of Madrid. The climax, set in a bullfighting ring, comes as a surprise, both because it acknowledges the cruelty of bullfighting and follows through on the story's core message. It's also an opportunity for Ferdinand to end with a little dignity, which is more than the movie displays for most of its running time.

Copyright 2017 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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