The Oscar Project
Yes, that's a bull in a china shop in the poster for Ferdinand. If you have ever been in elementary school, chances are you read the book by Munro Leaf and have a special place in your heart for the lovable bull who refuses to fight with the other bulls and only wants to smell the flowers.
If you never read the book as a child or if it's been a while, I actually found a PDF of the entire text of the book. It is JUST the text, so keep that in mind, but I strongly urge you to get the full book for your kids since it is a classic.
Now, as much as I recommend checking out the book, you don't need to have read the book before seeing this film. In fact, you might do well to read the book after watching the film and talk with your kids about what is different between the two and why that might be.
Ferdinand faces constant teasing and bullying (pun intended) from his peers as they try to see which of the older bulls (their fathers) will be selected to go off to glory in the bullfighting ring. The others see it as a personal fight against the matador and all think they will win, not knowing how stacked against the bull those fights truly are.
When Ferdinand's father is selected to go and he doesn't return, Ferdinand escapes and ends up at the house of a young girl (Nina) and her father. We follow the trio through a brief montage of Ferdinand growing up which leads into the main part of the story.
Nina and her father are heading into town for an annual flower festival and Ferdinand wants to attend because of his love for flowers. They insist that he cannot go since he is too big and it's no place for a bull. Once they leave however, Ferdinand runs off to town to enjoy the flowers.
Upon reaching town, he ends up getting into trouble and is stung by a bee (much like in the book). This turns him into a raging bull and he stampedes through town, bringing the authorities down on him and ultimately leading to his capture and return to the ranch he escaped from earlier.
Annoyed at his capture, he meets the lovable goat Lupe (Kate McKinnon) along with his old buddies who are also now all grown and a trio of hedgehogs voiced by Gina Rodriguez (The Star, Deepwater Horizon), Daveed Diggs (Hamilton), and Gabriel Iglasias (The Fluffy Movie, Magic Mike). There are a number of comic sequences once the famous bullfighter El Primero arrives to select a bull for his final fight. Thanks to Ferdinand, the bulls make fools of themselves. We learn that the hedgehogs keep trying to steal food, and the bulls have a very out of place dance off with the horses that live in the pasture next to theirs.
Nina learns of the fight and goes to Madrid with her father to find Ferdinand. In the final face off between El Primero and Ferdinand, he refuses to fight until El Primero attacks him and stabs him in the shoulder. Ferdinand manages to get the cape from El Primero and briefly turns the tide on the matador before El Primero draws his sword to finish off his enemy. The crowd at the fight backs Ferdinand and El Primero spares his life, at which point he is reunited with Nina and her father.
The other bulls arrive at the ring and are happy to discover that Ferdinand is still alive and has actually won the fight. They all return to Nina's farm with Ferdinand and from all appearances live happily ever after.
Don't get me wrong, this is a fun movie. The animation is fantastic and the adventure that ultimately unfolds is fun and entertaining. There are some piece in the middle third that drag on and felt a bit unnecessary (see the dancing horses and the escape through the slaughterhouse) but understanding that those are put in place to make the kids laugh, I can forgive them.
The voices in the film are top notch. Cena delivers a good performance in the title role and McKinnon supports well as the corner goat/trainer Lupe. Bobby Cannavale is convincing as Valiente, Ferdinand's main competition while Peyton Manning found something to do after football in lending his voice to the bumbling bull Guapo.
In terms of the animation itself, the film sticks well enough to the visual style of the book, while updating it to the computer animated look of today. The colors used throughout the film are vibrant, especially when there is a focus on the flowers that Ferdinand loves so much.
In some other years, I think this film would have had a decent chance of winning the category, but as with some other films, I feel like it was just a victim of timing. Up against films from ten or even five years ago in the Best Animated Feature category, it would be a strong contender.
I'm just a film buff who wants to watch great movies. Where else to find the best, than the list of those nominated by the Academy each year?