MOVIE REVIEW: Beefed up classic comes good
A pig that thinks he's a sheepdog, a rat with gastronomic aspirations, and now a Spanish fighting bull who likes to smell the roses ... misfits come in many shapes and species.
Unlike his testosterone-fuelled stable mates, Ferdinand (voiced by wrestler turned actor John Cena) hates conflict. He'd rather cultivate daisies than lock horns with the other young bulls in the cattle yard.
The bovine pacifist stands his ground in the face of even extreme provocation from an ultra-aggressive Valiente (Bobby Cannavale).
But a cattle ranch that breeds and trains animals for the bullfighting arena is hardly the right fit for such a soft-hearted protagonist.
When his dad is felled by a champion matador, the grief-stricken youngster seizes his moment and escapes. After a short series of misadventures, Ferdinand is adopted by a flower farmer and his young daughter. This tranquil new life, frolicking in the flower-covered pastures, is Ferdinand's version of heaven.
But as the gangly calf grows into a mature bull, Ferdinand's inner gentleness is at odds with ferocious outward appearance.
Mistaken for a dangerous animal by the local townsfolk, he winds up back at the cattle ranch where he catches the eye of the country's leading matador who is looking for a particularly fine specimen for his final fight.
Admittedly, there isn't a whole lot of competition. David Tennant's Scottish Highland bull, Angus, can't see through his thick fringe and Anthony Anderson's bitser, Bones, is far too scrawny to make the cut.
Determined to return home to his family, Ferdinand hatches a daring escape plan - which includes busting two of his mates out of a neighbouring knackers yard.
But for this four-legged hero, all roads lead to the bullfighting arena and a battle that will test his mettle as well as his personal convictions.
Ferdinand's feel-good resolution is sure to get the tick of approval from the RSPCA. (Although vegan activists might reasonably take issue with the bull's domestic situation.)
The filmmakers' primary focus, however, is male gender stereotypes - there are hardly any female characters in this story apart from the young girl and Kate McKinnon's flea-bitten goat Lupe, who has some of the best lines.
Based on a classic children's book, Ferdinand is a story about fathers and sons and what happens when a brave individual has the courage to challenge the status quo.
It's a pity the filmmakers' message diluted by what feels increasingly like an animated screenwriting formula populated by daffy sidekicks, a cute, wisecracking chorus and one-dimensional villains.
Ferdinand opens on Thursday.
Stars: John Cena, Bobby Cannavale, David Tennant, Kate McKinnon.
Director: Carlos Saldanha
Verdict: 3 stars