When an animated film stars John Cena of WWE fame and one of the NFL’s greatest quarterbacks in Peyton Manning, I’m scratching my head, but hey, I’ll try almost anything once. I just wish it never came in the form of Ferdinand.
Director Carlos Saldanha is long removed from Ice Age, but in Ferdinand, his talents seemingly aged poorly. Never at one point did I feel connected to the tale of Ferdinand the Bull, who has to deal with being different from the other bulls. He likes flowers, loves making people happy and helping others. It’s all the clichés you’d come to expect from a children’s animation film. Nevertheless, I took off my adult cap and tried to empathize with the film. Ferdinand, voiced by John Cena (adult) and Colin H. Murphy (child), was never the most popular kid in the group of bulls, who all aim to capture the attention of a matador in order to fight in the ring and avoid the Chop House. But one day, young Ferdinand escaped Casa Del Toro after his father dies and finds refuge with a family who raised and loved him into his adult years.
Lord, did the film take a nosedive after about 30 minutes or so. For starters, nothing about the voice acting felt natural, as each child actor struggled to connect with the character on-screen. Young Guapo (Jet Jurgensmeyer), for instance, never matched well with the actor. The immersion is broken early in this film with poor dialogue, but hey, it isn’t terrible thanks to vibrant scenes at the farm. The moment Ferdinand finds himself trapped back at Casa Del Toro after a series of unfortunate events is the moment the film dives deep into the garbage can. Couple this with shoddy animation on everything outside of the bulls, and I struggle to find out how some of these scenes made it past the cutting room floor.
There’s literally not a single joke that made me laugh and — according to the theater I was in — not a single joke made the children laugh out loud, either. Among screenplay writers Robert L. Baird, Tim Federle and Brad Copeland, you’re going to convince me the most clever jokes crafted were of the fart caliber? Oh, please. This is definitely a child’s film, but you know what else is a child’s film? Coco, and that film’s humor catered well to both children and adults. And who’s bright idea was it to include calming goat Lupe (Kate McKinnon), the single-most annoying animated character in recent memory? I just — sigh.
The overarching issue in Ferdinand, however, lies in John Cena’s inability to switch gears with his voice. He’s always the optimist and never able to convey emotion in scenes that call for sadness. When Ferdinand is supposed to be panicking, deciding whether to attend the Flower Festival against his family’s wishes, Cena still sounds happy. Never once did the film’s intentional moments calling for awes in the crowd get that response.
The film continues to drag its feet in the mud with its predictability, lulling me to sleep. On top of the terribull (intentional spelling!) acting, we’re treated to dance numbers that are simply bad music videos aided with the likes of Pitbull, among others. Why, oh why must we get tortured scene after scene, Carlos Saldanha?
If there’s anything redeeming, it’s a scene founded on the “Bull in a China Shop” joke. There’s a playful sense about this scene that the film never revisits.
There. That’s it. Two sentences of positivity are really all Ferdinand deserves. I wanted to like this animated film that isn’t from Disney/Pixar. Alas, Blue Sky Studios is putting out a stinker. It shouldn’t be hard to make kids laugh. It shouldn’t be hard to properly animate scenes that instead jump in frame rate far too often. It shouldn’t be hard to stray from generic, mainstream music to try to reel in mass audiences. But here we are — a film that defies any sort of logic and basks in mediocrity.
It doesn’t help that this opens the same day as Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Talk about salt on an open wound.
I was treated to an early screening of this film for purposes of this review thanks to Blue Sky Studios, 20th Century Fox and Allied Marketing. ❤
Ferdinand is rated PG, runs 1 hour and 45 minutes and opens in theaters on Dec. 15, 2017.