There are a lot of great movies coming out in the next few months. There’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi, obviously, and Black Panther looks amazing, and then… there’s this one. Ferdinand, by Blue Sky Studios, is going to be coming out on the same day as The Last Jedi, and, just between you and me, I don’t think it’s going to do so well.
I first heard of Ferdinand a few weeks ago on my Facebook feed, because one of my favorite singers, Juanes, was going to have some kind of role in it. I love animated films, so why not? I watched the trailer and was immediately underwhelmed. Ferdinand is about a gentle bull living in what is presumably Spain, and all he wants to do is smell the flowers and chill with his human buddies. One day, though, he accidentally sits on a bee, gets stung, and rampages through a marketplace before being taken away from his family. He ends up living in a pen with other bulls and stays there until a matador picks him to be his next opponent in the ring. Upon hearing that he’ll have to fight a matador, Ferdinand’s non-violent nature asserts itself and he immediately starts planning an escape.
The movie is pretty much the usual kids’ fare and the animation is cute, but something about it struck me as extremely… repetitive. Blue Sky Studios is the studio behind films like Ice Age and Rio, and both of those seem kind of similar to the plot of Ferdinand. Cute animated animals, someone’s lost, someone has to find their way home. Aside from the change in animals and geography, it’s pretty much the exact same plot.
The issue of bullfighting is an extremely contentious one in Spain, so I was surprised that Blue Sky Studios didn’t seem to put any effort into actually making the movie culturally accurate, or even culturally… visible. There’s nothing that hints at the current debate over bullfighting in the trailer, and aside from some of the architecture and some stereotypical flamenco dancers, there’s no sign that this movie is actually happening in Spain; all the characters, of course, speak English, and the two main leads, Ferdinand and the goat Lupe, are even voiced by white actors John Cena and Kate McKinnon. You have to go further down the cast list to get to Gina Rodriguez and Gabriel Iglesias, who are playing some of Ferdinand’s hedgehog pals. Though neither are from Spain, they are at least both Latinx. The lack of any more realistic Spanish culture is a huge missed opportunity for both Hollywood and for the actual movie; an injection of culture would have added some much-needed heart to this movie.
Which is a shame, because aside from how bland everything is, the A-list cast makes you think that the actors could have done so much better with a better script. Regardless of ethnicity, Gabriel Iglesias is one of my brother’s favorite comics and Flula Borg is one of mine; actors like Rodriguez and Daveed Diggs certainly have acting chops and could show them much more if they weren’t just the sidekicks. In a December filled with great movies, Ferdinand seems like an eminently missable one. See it—or not—in theaters on the same day as The Last Jedi, December 15th.