The story Ferdinand is a bull who is a lover, not a fighter – despite being built and bred for the bullfighting ring. Voiced by another gentle giant, American pro-wrestler John Cena, he bolts from a breeder’s ranch in Spain and is taken in by the daughter of a flower farmer, with whom he lives an idyllic existence until a misunderstanding leads him back to the bullfighting ring.
It is not going to win too many prizes for originality, but you could do worse than take your kids to see this well-intentioned movie.Based on a popular 1930s children’s book, the story has been analysed to bits by grown-ups ever since.
Europe’s fascist leaders saw it as pacifist propaganda: It was banned in Francisco Franco’s Spain and burned in Adolf Hitler’s Germany as a result.This modern version by Carlos Saldanha, director of the Rio and Ice Age films, continues to function as allegory and inkblot, albeit rather simplistically.
There is an anti-bullying, be-yourself message that bears repeating, although the story perversely imagines that bulls bred for fighting compete with one another to be chosen for the ring, while also dodging the larger question about the ethics of this bloodsport.
WWE wrestler John Cena speaking at a press conference in Shanghai on June 16, 2016.Related Story wrestler John Cena impresses fans in China with fluent Mandarin speech.As with many animated films about animals, different species are also randomly assigned national and other stereotypes. Here, for instance, a group of Lipizzaner horses have over-the-top Austrian/ German accents and are inexplicably snooty and campy.
The visual and verbal humour is cartoonish rather than clever and it recycles gags seen in far too many animated films, such as animals in a high-speed car chase.
Some jokes hit the spot, though, especially a brilliant extended riff on the phrase “a bull in a china shop”.And this straightforward story does have some bite, notably in its defence of non-conformity.
It works especially well as a critique of gender stereotypes – in particular, rigid ideas about masculinity that equate having a brawny physique with outdated notions about macho-ness and aggression and view wanting to stop and smell the roses as somehow deviant and/or feminine.For kids, cheering on Ferdinand as he wriggles free of the social straitjacket imposed on him is as good a way as any to learn this.
Based on Munro Leaf and Robert Lawson’s 1936 children’s book The Story of Ferdinand, this gently subversive Madrid-set feature from animation studio Blue Sky and frequent collaborator Carlos Saldanha (the Ice Age films, Rio) follows an adorable, flower-sniffing bull named Ferdinand. “Is it OK if that’s not my dream?” the baby bull asks his father of fighting. When he discovers that he has no choice, Ferdinand scarpers, hoofing it to a flower farm, where he befriends a human girl and her shaggy sheepdog. Ferdinand’s passivity (and flower obsession) isn’t explicitly coded as queer, though the film hints that this might be the case.
Either way, Ferdinand celebrates his mild temperament and non-confrontational masculinity, which remain unchanged as his bull’s body grows resplendently large. The adult Ferdinand (voiced by WWE superstar John Cena) ends up causing a ruckus at a local flower fair (and offers viewers a very funny scene in a china shop) and so is carted back to the ranch he came from. Other fun characters include a neurotic, calming goat voiced by Kate McKinnon, a trio of bitchy German horses with swishy pastel manes, and mischievous, pilfering hedgehogs Uno, Dos and Cuatro (“We do not speak of Tres”).
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