Ferdinand Review

Ferdinand (John Cena) is the biggest, strongest bull around but, rather than fight for glory in the arena, he'd much rather spend his days with Nina (Lily Day), tending the flowers. Captured by a bull farm, he's forced to choose between fighting matadors or the chop house.

by James Dyer |
Published on
Release Date:

09 Dec 2017

Original Title:


Improbable as it may seem, Munro Leaf’s The Story Of Ferdinand is among the most controversial children’s books ever written. Banned by Franco, burned by Hitler and unavailable in many countries for years, this unassuming story of a bull who’d rather smell the flowers than gore matdors has been accused, at various points, of promoting pacifism, anarchism, fascism and communism.

Carlos Saldanha's animated updating expands the fable into a full-blown adventure, one where the improbably burly bull is taken from the little girl who raised him and forced to train for the arena at a bull farm. Aided by a goat (Kate McKinnon) and a trio of pastel-coloured hedgehogs, Ferdinand formulates a plan to escape, but he must convince the other bulls (David Tennant, Bobby Cannavale, Peyton Manning, Anthony Anderson) that there are more options than fighting or filet mignon.


It’s a charming enough story and the book’s moral centre — that it’s okay to be who you are, not what people want you to be — survives intact. Likewise, Cena does an able job of making the humongous heffer a likeable hero to root for. At 106 minutes, though, the bovine antics fractionally outstay their welcome and while a few standout sequences will raise a snort (a choreographed dance-off against three camp German horses and a literal bull in a china shop gag), there’s nothing here to place this among the ranks of top-tier kids’ entertainment.

Inoffensive fun, but unlike its paperback forbear, the cinematic Ferdinand is unlikely to stand the test of time.
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