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Good-hearted ‘Ferdinand’ comes through for its audience — kids

In “Ferdinand,” the giant bull loves to spend his days sniffing flowers and frolicking with butterflies and in no way wants to fuss or fight with anybody.
In “Ferdinand,” the giant bull loves to spend his days sniffing flowers and frolicking with butterflies and in no way wants to fuss or fight with anybody. Twentieth Century Fox

Ferdinand is a sweetie and “Ferdinand” is sweet. Not as teeth-meltingly sweet as a sugar tsunami, but agreeably toothsome.

As to that titular bull, a “ginormous” specimen, he’s a real dear. He’s legendary in song and story.

The story being the 1936 Munro Leaf children’s book whence he sprang, and the song being the delightful ditty celebrating him as “the bull with the delicate ego” whose lineage traces back to the 1938 Disney cartoon that marked his first appearance on the big screen.

This new “Ferdinand” is a vast expansion on its seven-plus minute ancestor and is not a Disney production. This one comes from Blue Sky Studios, the people behind the “Ice Age” toons.

It’s noisy and often frantic — there’s a car chase; sigh — but it preserves the original’s key elements. Which is to say Ferdinand (voiced by John Cena) loves to spend his days sniffing flowers on a tranquil Spanish hillside and frolicking with butterflies and in no way wants to fuss or fight with anybody.

He especially isn’t on board with being carted off to Madrid to appear as the featured attraction in the Plaza de Toros. He’s unclear on the concept of what goes on there, but does know that all who go never return.

His gentle nature gravels his fellow bulls, especially a super-aggressive, flower-stomping, er, bully, named Valiente (Bobby Cannavale).

Befriended by a garrulous snaggle-toothed girl goat named Lucia (Kate McKinnon) and a trio of hyperactive hedgehogs, Ferdinand plots his escape from the ranch where he’s held captive.

The humor is broad and obvious (yes, Ferdinand winds up in a china shop, with predictable results) but there are several scenes that hit the mark.

A dance-off between the bulls and a trio of haughty Teutonic horses is a stitch. And a scene near the end when tables are turned and it’s Fernando waving a red cape at a matador is close to sublime.

The quality isn’t up to Pixar standards, but “Ferdinand” does hit the sweet spot as far as its target audience is concerned. You know: for kids.

Ferdinand

1/2 stars out of 4

Cast: John Cena, Kate McKinnon, Bobby Cannavale, Gina Rodriguez and Lily Day.

Director: Carlos Saldanha

Running time: 1:47

Rated: PG for rude humor, action and some thematic elements.

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