I'm sure a lot of people have heard the term of "stopping to smell the roses". It's a metaphor for seizing a moment in life to enjoy the more beautiful elements that are taken for granted. While some things could mean an entertaining movie or TV show, this is usually meant for something that we rarely pay attention to like a landscape, a sunset, or even the flowers in your backyard. The truth there couldn't be stronger as we often complain about the bad decisions and atrocities, and yet we probably hold back more then we should. There is a benefit to appreciating the little elements that do us a lot of good.
The idea to "stop and smell the roses" is most associated with the children's book of Ferdinand the Bull, which was about the biggest and strongest bull that would rather smell flowers then fight. While I haven't read it, it sounds like a good moral (especially in today's icy society of politics and stress) that a lot of people really ought to take in. Like a lot of children's books, it should come as no surprise that a movie adaptation would be inevitable. So let's see if Ferdinand can make a modern movie transition.
In Spain, a young calf escapes from a bullfighting training facility when his father is selected, but never comes back. Aside of escaping the tragedy, he's also running from the bullying he gets from his lack of interest in violence. He finds himself in a farm where he's taken care of by a florist Juan and his daughter Nina. Fully grown, the bull Ferdinand (played by John Cena) is a big animal, but is only focused on smelling the flowers and trying to make the other animals happy. When he get's stung by a bee and accidently causes mayhem at a flower festival, animal control seizes him and takes him back to the bullfighting facility he escaped from.
He comes across calves now grown like Bones (played by Antony Anderson), Guapo (played by Peyton Manning), Angus (played by David Tennent) and Valiente (played by Bobby Cannavale) who all dream of being selected to bullfight. While Ferdinand does befriend an insane goat Lupe (played by Kate McKinnon), all he wants is to escape, especially after finding out that all bulls selected either never win bull fights or are sent to the chophouse.
The story of Ferdinand seems to carry the same themes of enjoying the simpler things in life. It also seems that the writers wanted to incorporate an anti bullying element that’s not a bad idea. Does it work? I think it does, but then again, I feel like that the story of an outsider within a society has been done several times in animated movies (The Lego Movie, Rio, Ice Age, countless DreamWorks films, etc…). If Ferdinand is going to stand out, it really needed to think outside the box. The problem I'm having is the movie feels at least ten years behind the curve.
I think it simply falls on the story. A lot of the things they do are not bad ideas, but are things that I've seen done better in other animated movies; the goofy sidekicks, the big chase, the animals roaming in cities. Much of it isn't that original or even that funny. To it's credit, I don't think it's trying to be a major comedy, but rather tell a sweeter story. Because of that, the film retains a quieter and slower tone…for the most part (there's a pointless dance sequence and a use of the "Macarena" song that feel out of place). I appreciate it for more what it's trying to do when the final result.
The one element that does help it is John Cena as Ferdinand. The pro wrestler is actually fitting in to his comedic elements a lot better then his earlier work. He does carry a charisma that makes his large personality an advantage for the pacifist bull. He even got a laugh out of me every now and then. Does it make up for the rest of the movie? I can't say this is a bad movie, but a merely passable animated film for families that are looking for something to watch.
I'll give this three Ferdinand bulls out of five. It's hard to get mad at a film that does accomplish it's goal, but I still think there's better ways to tell this story. Children should like it fine (I probably would have at eight as well), but adults will probably be board. I'd tell the family to watch Coco instead, but Ferdinand delivers on what it offers.