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Review: Ferdinand animated tale of bull who is a lover not a fighter

PUBLISHED: 11:55 15 December 2017 | UPDATED: 12:01 15 December 2017

Ferdinand (voiced by John Cena) and Nina (Katie Silverman) in Ferdinand. Photo: Blue Sky Studios/Twentieth Century Fox

Ferdinand (voiced by John Cena) and Nina (Katie Silverman) in Ferdinand. Photo: Blue Sky Studios/Twentieth Century Fox

Archant

Carlos Saldanha’s coming-of-age story, from thre studio behind the Ice Age and Rio films, tells the journey of self-discovery centred on a Spanish fighting bull, who prefers to smell the roses rather than stomp on them.

Ferdinand (voiced by John Cena) and Lupe (voiced by Kate McKinnon) in Ferdinand. Photo: Blue Sky Studios/Twentieth Century FoxFerdinand (voiced by John Cena) and Lupe (voiced by Kate McKinnon) in Ferdinand. Photo: Blue Sky Studios/Twentieth Century Fox

Ferdinand (U)

***

From the director of Rio comes this story of a flower loving, pacifist, Spanish bull who, despite growing up in the Casa Del Toro where bulls are breed for the ring, wants nothing to do with the bullfighting game.

An obvious stance you might think, but all the others are gung ho and keen to have their shot at glory in the ring in director Carlos Saldanha’s coming-of-age story.

They are also keen to avoid the fate of bulls deemed not good enough to face a matador: a trip to the chophouse.

Ferdinand (voiced by John Cena) is raised at the Casa Del Toro alongside his hulking father Raf (Jeremy Sisto), who is selected to fight in the ring.

When Raf fails to return, grief-stricken Ferdinand escapes his stable and runs away. He is eventually adopted as an oversized pet by a girl called Nina (Katie Silverman) and her family.

Police deem Ferdinand a public menace and returned to the Casa Del Toro, where an old goat called Lupe (Kate MacKinnon) is enlisted as his trainer so he is fit to face legendary matador El Primero (Miguel Angel Silvestre).

Ferdinand (voiced by John Cena) in Ferdinand. Photo: Blue Sky Studios/Twentieth Century FoxFerdinand (voiced by John Cena) in Ferdinand. Photo: Blue Sky Studios/Twentieth Century Fox

Blue Sky Animation are top of the second tier of animation studios; they don’t win Oscars but in five Ice Age films, two Rios and a few others, their frantic mix of slapstick and celebrity voice artists have consistently kept audiences contented.

Their latest, adapted from children’s book The Story Of Ferdinand penned by Munro Leaf and illustrated by Robert Lawson, represents a moderate step forward. Beneath the car chases and frantic mugging, there’s a good basic story.

It’s not Bambi, but there is a sense of danger and mortality. There’s even a poignancy in the bulls’ deluded belief that this will be a noble contest, and seeing them psyching themselves up to fight.

Wrestler Cena (sounding a lot like Seth Rogen) is good as the title character, though McKinnon is over indulged as the giddy goat.

One of the other bulls is voiced by Peyton Manning, who I believe is a famous quarterback in the American football game, not the man who gave all those state secrets to Wikileaks and became a lady.

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