By: Reel 127 (Five Beers) –
“The Story of Ferdinand” is an innocent enough book with an interesting history. It was beloved by children as well as adults upon its release. Yet the Nazis burned the book for being “degenerate democratic propaganda.” When I heard that it was receiving an animated feature film adaption literally 80 years after its release I said, “Oh.” When I heard John Cena would voice Ferdinand I asked, “Why would they get a guy who has made a living in fighting, to play a character who’s message is fighting isn’t the answer?”
Ferdinand, like the book, is about a bull who would rather smell flowers than fight. When he grows up he becomes the biggest bull there is, but still wants to smell flowers. One day he is stung by a bee and everyone mistakes him for being a fierce fighter. This is where the similarities seem to end between the book and the movie, as the film often takes darker turns with the story.
First of all, I did not hate this movie as much as I thought I would. Anytime I see the label “Blue Sky Animations” I feel a sense of dread only rivaled by Illumination Entertainment. I laughed more than I thought I would at the jokes. However, for every joke that worked at least three fell flat. And I would have to say the same about the slapstick. Most of the time I am able to easily predict the direction the story is headed (especially with animated films), but Ferdinand managed to surprise me a couple of times (though not for the better). Lastly, I would like to add that Poco was the best character. I wish he was in this movie more. Why was Poco barely in this? Can we get a spinoff with just Poco?
It probably isn’t a good sign when the best character
in a movie about bulls is a dog.
That being said, every other character in this is terrible. All of them were one note and any growth they have comes very quickly. Basically it was something like, “I’m a bull, I’m [fast, strong, easily sick, etc.] and I will win against the matador.” Then Ferdinand tells them, “Nope, you’ll die.” So the other bulls go “Oh dang! Better just escape, because the other option is the slaughterhouse.” There you go. I just summed up at least a third of this movie in a few sentences.
Can’t tell them apart? I’ve made my point.
The writing is awful in Ferdinand. But hey! That’s kind of expected when you have six different writers! I’m sure the first draft wasn’t bad, possibly even great. But writer after writer taking a crack at turned it into the mess that was regurgitated onto the screen. I’m not sure which writer(s) and/ or producers decided that having the threat of a slaughterhouse helped add stakes but it was a bad idea. At the showing I attended, when the first bull was sent to the slaughterhouse, a mother and her daughter left the theater and never came back.
And I have to say this because this bugged me the most in the film. There is an inexplicable dance-off between the bulls and some German horses (a trio that seems to be a knockoff of the German students in Community). It comes out of nowhere, does absolutely nothing to progress the plot, and were the most cringe-worthy minutes of the whole movie. Not to mention that in an earlier scene the German horses had commented that Ferdinand’s “parents probably weren’t even related.” Why the hell was an inbreeding joke in a family movie!? The kids won’t get it, and I doubt any parents laughed at it.
The Award for Most Infuriating
Characters of 2017 goes to…
By the time we reached the climax where Ferdinand must fight the matador there was no tension. Because until then, against all odds everything had worked out for Ferdinand. He had escaped the ranch when he was a kid, he was able to live his dream life for years, when he is captured he is sent back to the same farm so he already had a relationship with some of the bulls there, he manages to get all the bulls on his side to escape (even the ones that had gone to the slaughterhouse and were awaiting their slaughter), and gets them to his home in countryside. I didn’t even need to read the book to know he would make it out of the ring and live happily ever after, because this movie gave me no reason to think it might not work out. I yawned. I actually yawned as the film reached its thrilling conclusion. That’s how worried I was for our protagonist.
Oh wow, he wins through non-violence.
Color me surprised!
It also doesn’t help that the direction was terrible. You can tell that most of the voice cast is trying their best despite this. David Tennant sounded more Scottish than he naturally sounds, and I’m pretty certain all the direction Kate McKinnon was given was, “Do those silly things you do all the time. People love that!” This is thanks to serial Blue Sky director Carlos Saldanha, who has just gotten lazier with each movie he has made. And why wouldn’t he? Blue Sky keeps hiring him no matter how bad each film gets.
David Tennant was told:
“Do your Scrooge McDuck but even more Scottish!”
In summation, Ferdinand is the result of a studio that focuses on its marketing more than its content and to this day has been given no reason to change their formula. I honestly have no idea who this movie is for. Absolutely no attempt was made at being for all ages. It pushes the boundaries too much for a PG film to be for kids. But there is very little available for adults to enjoy. Ferdinand is a film best left forgotten. If you want a movie about Ferdinand, check out the 1930s Disney short. It’s 100 minutes shorter and won an Oscar.
Disney did it first!
Ferdinand (2017) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: every time Ferdinand stops to smell the flowers.
Take a Drink: every time a joke gets too dark.
Take a Drink: every time a bull runs into something.
Take a Drink: every time Lupe coughs something up.
Do a Shot: for that oh-so-predictable moment when Ferdinand’s dad dies.
Do a Shot: every time a bull gets sent to the slaughterhouse.