Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Ferdinand: A Fun Upgrade of a Classic Cartoon Well Told for a Modern Age

Movie Review: Ferdinand (2017)
Version: Library borrow

Ferdinand, the 2017 animated film about the pacifist bull with a love for flowers, was once a Disney cartoon. In this updated version by 20th Century Fox, the basic story line is the same but the narrative arc is extended and the characters are more robust and far more interesting. Sort of as the saying goes, this isn't your Grandma's Ferdinand -- it's been beefed up for the modern age.

In this version, Ferdinand the bull begins as a young calf surrounded by other calves at a Spanish bull-training camp. Spain's greatest matador, El Primero, picks his bulls for the bull ring from this academy (Casa del Toro), and when it comes to light that the bulls he picks never return after their day of glory, Ferdinand decides this isn't the life for him. He escapes and ends up on the flower farm of young Nana, who raises him as her pet, fortunately in his favorite venue, in fields full of fragrant flowers. But Ferdinand eventually grows into a full-size bull, and one day he disobeys Nana and her father and comes into town for the flower festival, where a bee pokes Ferdinand, sending him into a rage. Ferdinand is captured and wisked back to Casa del Toro, where he is finally picked by El Primero to fight his final battle in the bull ring. But the fight doesn't go as El Primero or Ferdinand or the crowd expect, setting up a battle royale with unexpected consequences.

There is a fun cast of new characters like Lupe the goat (played by Kate McKinnon), who trains Ferdinand (played by John Cena) for the bull ring. Then there's Angus, a Scottish bull (played by David Tennant) and Bones (played by Anthony Anderson) a skinny runt of a bull, totally never going to be picked by a matador but interesting foils for Ferdinand and his antagonist and competitor for selection by El Primero, Valiente (played by Bobby Cannavale). Adorable Nana is played by Lily Day. Together, these characters help Ferdinand navigate his uncertain life as a bull against stereotype and support his final struggle when he is forced to battle his worst nightmare, the battle for his life.

There isn't much amazing about the animation or the artwork here. It's all story and characters. Ferdinand is mostly a story for kids, although parents can enjoy it, too. One scene adults can enjoy is a take off on the cliche "bull in a china shop", in which Ferdinand accidentally finds himself inside an actual china shop. It's handled with a lot of fun. I'm not sure kids will get the "inside joke" as easily as their parents will.

Should you see Ferdinand? By all means! It's a fun upgrade of a classic cartoon, well told and well shown for a modern age.

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