dir Carlos Saldanha
scr Robert L Baird, Tim Federle, Brad Copeland
prd Bruce Anderson, John Davis, Lori Forte, Lisa Marie Stetler
voices John Cena, Kate McKinnon, Bobby Cannavale, Anthony Anderson, Peyton Manning, David Tennant, Jerrod Carmichael, Lily Day, Jeremy Sisto, Gina Rodriguez, Daveed Diggs, Gabriel Iglesias
release US/UK 15.Dec.17
17/US Fox 1h46
You gotta fight: Lupe and Ferdinand

cena mckinnon cannavale
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Ferdinand The beloved 1936 children's book comes to the big screen with the usual action-comedy mayhem added in to stretch it out to feature length. While the core story remains warm and witty, with a superb message about finding your joy, the goofy antics are both silly and pointless. It has plenty of energy to keep kids chuckling, although grown-ups may find it rather uneven.

In Spain, young calf Ferdinand (Cena) grows up more interested in flowers than fighting, so he escapes from his ranch and is adopted by Nina (Day). On her dad's farm, Ferdinand grows into a hulking but sweet-natured bull, but one day goes into town and terrifies the locals. Captured and sent back home, Ferdinand is lined up for a big bullfight in Madrid. Without that fighting instinct, he decides to run for it again. But to escape he'll need the help of goat sidekick Lupe (McKinnon) and his childhood bull cohorts (Canavale, Anderson and Manning).

The central story about Ferdinand's desire to be himself, choosing love over violence, is genuinely engaging and features a number of rather lovely scenes. In between these, the screenwriters veer off into wacky slapstick, corny gags and lots of madcap action craziness, none of which feels terribly original. And the animation is also relatively predictable in this sense, most notably in Lupe's ridiculously nutty appearance and comedy trios of scamming hedgehogs and snobby horses.

Blue Sky brings the same animation style as in its Ice Age franchise, with likeable talking animals who have big eyes and exaggerated physicalities. The design isn't particularly sophisticated, and the 3D doesn't add much, but it's technically solid, colourful and energetic. Still, the only genuinely likeable character is Ferdinand, and Cena's unfussy vocals nicely anchor the core story even with all the zany characters and antics around him.

All of that may hold the attention of younger audiences who are more accustomed to the frantic pace of most animated movies. And while the warm heart of the story manages to come through strongly here, it's still more powerful in Disney's 1938 Oscar-winning short Ferdinand the Bull. At least this film will bring a message of inclusion to a new audience, as well as reminding them of the importance of being true to who they are against relentless outside pressures. Hopefully now Blue Sky will learn that lesson too, and tell a story with a bit more purity.

cert u themes, violence 11.Dec.17

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© 2017 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall