A Thematically Strong But Overly Familiar Family Feature
Ferdinand presents itself as another generic animated family feature and for the most part, it happily treads this familiar ground. Although most of the humour misses the mark and the story plays out in a formulaic manner, Ferdinand’s big thematic undertone helps it stand out from the plethora of other animated titles out there.
Depicting the lives of Spanish fighter bulls, Ferdinand tells the story of a peaceful Bull who refuses to engage in violence, instead choosing to admire the beauty of life and wishing more from his existence than senseless violence. Of course, this mentality clashes with the other bulls on the ranch and eventually ends up with Ferdinand leaving the others in search of greener pastures (no pun intended). As the story evolves, themes around acceptance, race and morality crop up in a way that never feels contrived or forced in the narrative. It’s certainly refreshing to see this sort of care put into crafting a decent theme but unfortunately the story itself is straight forward and predictable for the most part losing some of the effectiveness of the big messages of the film. Still, kids are sure to love the bright, vibrant colours used even during some of the slower segments and there’s no denying that Ferdinand’s aesthetic look great. The frenetic chase scenes are nicely animated, the backdrops bursting with vibrancy and the character models well rendered for the most part.
Unfortunately, most of the characters depicted here fall into generic caricature tropes with the humour often feeling forced and odd inclusions like a dance number playing out like padding to a bare bones story rather than a compelling segment. The voice acting is good though and John Cena does a great job bringing Ferdinand to life and giving him some much needed charisma and charm.
Although all the plot points are resolved during the final act of the film, it all feels a little too conveniently handled. Although there are a few sprinklings of drama thrown into the plot, most of Ferdinand feels more passive rather than emotionally engrossing story. The final scenes of the film are arguably the best though and worth sticking around for but the journey to that point feels more like a light jog than a frenetic sprint for much of the 80+ minute run time.
Although Ferdinand’s narrative and plot structure is incredibly generic, this animated family feature never feels like a cheap cash in. There are moments where Ferdinand shines and a lot of this derives from the clever thematic undertones nestled throughout the film’s narrative. The humour rarely hits and the characters are flat and two dimensional but there’s certainly a charm with this animated flick that makes it easier to forgive some of the inherent flaws with the film. There are certainly worse animations out there but if you’re in the mood for a simple feel-good story, Ferdinand just about ticks all the boxes.