Bad things happen to inherently good computer-animated characters.
“It’s a dog-eat-dog, bull-fight-bull, everybody-hate-goat world,” laments one of the quirky, four-legged protagonists in director Carlos Saldanha’s joyful coming-of-age story.
Based on the children’s book The Story Of Ferdinand penned by Munro Leaf and illustrated by Robert Lawson, this entertaining if undemanding journey of self-discovery centres on a Spanish fighting bull, who prefers to smell the roses rather than stomp on them.
He refutes the laws of nature, which say he is destined to lock horns with a matador in the ring and wants to be judged by the generosity in his heart not the potentially lethal power of his hooves.
Alas, creatures great and small are reluctant to see past his muscular physique.
“Where do you think the word ‘bully’ comes from?” chirps one terrified hedgehog.
Working from a linear script that repeatedly preaches open-mindedness and acceptance over prejudice and preconception, Ferdinand spins an engaging yarn that will happily stampede the affections of younger audiences.
Teenagers and parents may prove harder to wrangle in the absence of sophisticated humour and heart-tugging emotion to elevate the film into the bull pen of modern classics.
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.
During a visit to the local market, Ferdinand accidentally sits on a bee.
A sharp sting causes him to rear up and locals flee in terror.
Police deem Ferdinand a public menace and, in a cruel twist of fate, he is returned to the Casa Del Toro where he is destined to face a legendary matador.
Ferdinand unfolds at a trot rather than a gallop, complemented by colourful visuals and lively vocal performances with Cena playing his misunderstood central character for pathos.