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I am having a hard time believing what I am typing right now, but I loved this movie.

I did not expect to love Ferdinand as the trailers for the film seemed like that typical animated fare that is unremarkable and just looking to fill the time between Pixar releases.  However, Ferdinand charmed the heck out of me.

The classic story is retold by director Carlos Saldanha, featuring a young calf whose father is taken away to face a famous bullfighter.  At first it seems like an honor, but when the bull does not return, it is obvious that something terrible has happened.

Young Ferdinand always had showed a desire to smell flowers rather than engage in fights, including avoiding confrontations with the other, more aggressive bulls.  After his father did not return, Ferdinand escaped the Casa del Toro and found his way to a peaceful, idyllic country home of a little girl named Nina (Lily Day).  Ferninand (John Cena) became a huge bull, but still had the heart full of peace.  When he wound up back at Case del Toro, Ferdinand had to face not only the past, but a dangerous future.

John Cena was great in this voice performance.  He delivered the kind-hearted Ferdinand’s dialogue to a tee.  You believed that this massive and powerful animal was a sweet caring creature.  Still, the best vocal performance of the film belonged to the scene stealing goat, Lupe, voiced by Kate McKinnon.  McKinnon was just fabulous as this goat and this was the break out character of the film.

I was so charmed by the message of friendship and decency from this film that I forgive some of the predictability that the plot gives us.  Sure the story follows a certain number of beats, but it is such a great time that it does not matter.  Even the car chase scene (which had me rolling my eyes) was one that ruin the warmth of this film.

But I was also impressed with the darkness that the film addressed.  The whole fact that the world of bullfighting is a cruel sport was not glossed over.  The matador (Miguel Ángel Silvestre) was shown as the villain of this story, proudly displaying the horns of the bulls that he had killed for nothing more than show.

But that was not the darkest part touched upon in Ferdinand as there was also the “chop shop” (aka slaughterhouse) where the bulls who failed to be chosen to fight were taken to be turned into meat.  I was truly shocked that they brought this concept into the film, and I found it to be extremely effective.

And there was an awesome dance off between the bulls and the bitchy show horses in the next pen that is just about a highlight of the entire film.

I cannot believe how much I enjoyed Ferdinand.  It was such a charming, sweet, amusing, gentle movie, but yet had some real dark undertones.  It was a total surprise.

4.1 stars

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