FERDINAND,   US, 2017. Voices of: John Cena, Kate MacKinnon, Bobby Cannavale, Jack Gore, Carlos Saldanha, Jeremy Sisto, Colin H. Murphy, Anthony Anderson, Peyton Manning, David Tennant, Gina Rodriguez, Sally Phillips, Daveed Diggs. Directed by Carlos Saldanha.

Ferdinand is a bull. He lives in Spain. At first, he is a little bull, along with some friends, whose main goal in life is to be chosen by the matador to go to the ring in Madrid, for greater Glory. The young bulls watch their father’s striving to be chosen by the matador – and Ferdinand’s father is chosen rather than the father of Val, Ferdinand’s biggest rival and taunter, a real case of bully-ing. Ferdinand actually prefers not to fight, plants a flower and waters it, delights in smelling his flower.

Ferdinand has the opportunity to escape and finishes up at a flower farm, bonding with the little girl, Nina, and her father and her dog who is unwilling (despite his eager tail wagging) to befriend Ferdinand. Suddenly, little bull, transforming into big, very big bull. All should be lovely at the farm but Ferdinand, after some to-ing and fro-ing, decides not to obey the command about his not going to the town and the elaborate flower show. He is delighted by the flowers and the display – but is stung by a bee and what follows some spectacular scenes of mayhem and smashes, including a literal bull in a china shop.

Back to the Cassa del Toro. He meets his old friends – and there is a newcomer, a Scottish-brokered ball called Angus. Val has grown bigger at this stage and is eager to be chosen for Madrid. Ferdinand is under the charge of a bucktoothed goat and trainer, Lupe, who is charmed by his friendship, understands his reluctance to fight and they concoct a plan for escaping. Val and Ferdinand do have a clash with Val breaking one of his horns and so ineligible for the ring, Ferdinand being chosen.

The escape sequences are also quite elaborate, having to go through the house and Ferdinand having to breathe in a lot to get out of windows and get through kitchen spaces. Fortunately, there are three tiny hedgehogs with comic voices doing comic turns who are escape experts.

There are some funny scenes when the group try to go to Madrid to rescue Ferdinand, the animals, during a bus, an enormous traffic jam in Madrid which provides the opportunity for a very animated car chase through the city.

As we see right from the beginning, with Ferdinand sniffing his favourite flower, this is not a film that promotes bullfighting. On the contrary, it takes humane stands in consideration of the animals, which means that the final bullfight does not go as the matador predicted, nor as the crowd initially wanted, but humanity prevails or whatever the word for the combination of bull-humanity could be also prevails.

A very good voice cast is led by John Cena as Ferdinand, Kate MacKinnon enjoying herself as the toothy goat, Bobby Cannavale as both Val and his father – and a good turn and from Angus the Scottish bull voiced by David Tennant.

The director, Carlos Saldanha, originally from Brazil, has directed or co-directed a number of the Ice Age films as well as Rio and Rio 2.

Fox.   Released  December 14th

Peter Malone MSC is an Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.

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