Blue Sky Studios excels at mediocrity. The animation outfit behind Rio and the Ice Age franchise has mostly safeguarded itself from creative challenges, thus creating two decades of children’s entertainment that’s more forgettable than offensive. While the studio is not without the occasional win — the first Ice Age movie was fun, and The Peanuts Movie was delightfully blissful nostalgia — most of its recent output is placeless and too conventional. Plots are recycled. There are liberal bouts of bathroom gags. Yappy side characters energetically appeal to undemanding kids. There’s little in here you haven’t seen elsewhere.
Its latest film, Ferdinand, directed by Carlos Saldanha and adapted from the popular children’s book, is no exception. While harmless and good-humored, it’s almost viciously bland. It follows a big-hearted bull (voiced by John Cena) who, like the best of us, is a lover, not a fighter. Despite his hulking, imposing size, he’d rather frolic and sniff flowers than charge at matadors. There are lessons about love, compassion and acceptance, but it’s all routine. The voice cast, including Kate McKinnon and, weirdly, Peyton Manning, is serviceable, and the animation is vibrant, especially when lingering on gorgeous Spanish locales. But nothing grabs you. It’s too easy to call it bullshit, and anyway that would give it too much distinction.