Along with charming animated visuals, spot-on voice talent and nicely paced direction, “Ferdinand” incorporates themes that are very relevant and much needed.
Inspired by the classic kids book “The Story of Ferdinand,” this animated offering about a sweet-tempered bull brings a new slant to the antibullying philosophy so many of us are hoping to instill in our children.
As we learn from the first frames of director Carlos Saldanha’s movie, even as a young bull, Ferdinand was considered a wimp who would much rather stop and coddle a lonely flower than engage in the physical combat his peers relish — and both verbally and physically abuse him for avoiding.
The visual artistry of the team at Blue Sky (“Ice Age”) provides a delightful palette upon which Ferdinand’s story unfolds. And perhaps the best part is the clever script that will appeal to both little kids and adults with humor that works on two levels.
Saldanha and his team also assembled a solid cast of enthusiastic voice talent — including pro wrestler John Cena as the adult Ferdinand and Kate McKinnon as the hilarious goat, Lupe, who steals just about every scene she’s in. Other voices belong to Bobby Cannavale, famed Latin singer Juanes, Gina Rodriguez, Anthony Anderson, NFL star Peyton Manning, Daveed Diggs and Gabriel Iglesias.
Through a series of events (including an obligatory “bull in the china shop” sequence that actually is pretty funny), Ferdinand’s avoidance of violence — his desire not to fight in the bullring — showcases knowledge that is important. While those young bulls back at the ranch yearn to go face the matador, Ferdinand comes to discover what really happens to 99 percent of the bulls who end up there.
A clever subplot involves a running competition between the bulls and the fancy purebred horses in a neighboring field. The animated acrobatics those ponies pull off will make you laugh out loud.
While “Ferdinand” is not an Oscar-worthy film, it is a delightful addition to a year that, frankly, has been fairly thin when it comes to excellent animated films. Most important, “Ferdinand’s” antibullying message is an important lesson kids of all ages need to see.