Munro Leaf’s 1936 book The Story of Ferdinand is around 30 pages. Disney’s 1938 adaptation of that story is 7 minutes, 14 seconds. Fox’s new version is 106 minutes. It’s a cute enough telling, but over such a long running time the tale of this very big bull starts to stretch a little thin.
Ferdinand (John Cena) is not like other bulls. Growing up on a ranch in Spain, all Ferdinand’s stable-mates want to be fighters. Their ultimate goal is to face a matador and emerge victorious. Ferdinand just wants to smell flowers and keep out of everybody’s way. One night he escapes the ranch and finds happiness on a farm with a little girl who loves him and shares his floral passion. That happiness is short-lived. Once he’s grown, to about the size of a modest family home, Ferdinand accidentally destroys a village, is sent back to the ranch and seems destined once more for the ring.
Director Carlos Saldanha has worked on some of Fox’s biggest hits, including the Ice Age and Rio series. Ferdinand is about on a par with those. It’s jolly, colourful and starry (David Tennant, as a grumpy highland bull is the vocal highlight), yet without any clear personality of its own or ambition to be more than very gentle family entertainment. That running time and a slim story means by the latter stages it’s lumbering rather than charging. Like its star, Ferdinand is solid, good-hearted and a bit bigger than necessary. Unlike its star, it leaves little lasting impression.
By Olly Richards