Flora & Ulysses assessment: a superhero squirrel takes a again seat to household drama

ben schwartz and matilda lawson in flora & ulysses

The Disney Plus unique film Flora & Ulysses is a narrative a few damaged household studying to know one another once more. However that isn’t what the film’s trailer promised: it focuses virtually solely on the shenanigans of a superpowered squirrel.

That squirrel doesn’t find yourself commanding as a lot of the film because the trailers recommend. In truth, if Flora & Ulysses have been lighter on the squirrel antics, the household comedy from director Lena Khan (Tiger Hunter) and screenwriter Brad Copeland (Arrested Growth) truly would possibly work higher. The guts of the movie is 10-year-old self-proclaimed cynic Flora (Matilda Lawler), who’s caught up in her dad and mom’ monetary and marital issues, and simply attempting to make sense of the world.

The core of Flora & Ulysses is a candy household story, bolstered by Lawler’s sharp efficiency. However it will get slowed down by animal-chase capers and metatextual references to Disney properties. Nonetheless, it’s heartwarming and charming sufficient to help its message of household coming collectively and transferring ahead.

[Ed. note: This review contains slight spoilers for Flora & Ulysses]

ben schwartz and matilda lawson in flora & ulysses

Picture: Disney

Based mostly on the ebook of the identical title by common kids’s creator Kate DiCamillo (who additionally wrote Due to Winn-Dixie and The Story of Despereaux), Flora & Ulysses follows Flora, the daughter of a struggling comedian ebook artist (Ben Schwartz) and a once-prolific romance novelist (Alyson Hannigan). Flora as soon as believed in superheroes, however her dad and mom’ struggling marriage has pressured her to re-evaluate her relationship with hope and idealism. That’s, till she rescues a squirrel from a runaway vacuum cleaner and discovers he has tremendous powers.

The squirrel — which Flora names Ulysses after the model of vacuum cleaner that just about kills him — has super-strength and a few restricted flying means. He not solely understands people, he writes poetry utilizing Flora’s mother’s typewriter. Flora decides she wants to determine Ulysses’ function as a hero, and enlists the assistance of her father and her neighbor’s visiting nephew William (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth), who’s briefly blind following a hysteria-induced incident. However bringing the squirrel out in public attracts the eye of an animal management officer (Danny Pudi). Cue “operating away with a squirrel fugitive” antics.

These antics tonally distract from the remainder of the film. Pudi’s villain character feels shoehorned in to provide the story a battle that’s extra concrete than a damaged household studying to bond once more. Whereas there are moments of real emotion between animal-chase scenes — like when Flora reveals up at her dad’s new grocery store job and tries to save lots of him from his pedantic supervisor — the film simply options an excessive amount of fruitless operating round. Ulysses’ tremendous powers don’t even add a lot to the story, since numerous the chasing entails Flora, her father, or William stashing him someplace. It’s telling that the ability that will get essentially the most plot weight and display screen time is his means to hash out rudimentary poems.

flora reading a comic book

Picture: Disney

The one factor that makes the film value watching is Flora herself. Lawler’s efficiency instructions the film. A former idealist who disavowed any heroic notions after her father moved out, Flora already begins off as an attention-grabbing character, however Lawler makes her plausible and spunky as properly. She’s first launched as she lists off a few of her once-favorite superheroes, in a scene that seems like a gratuitous showcase of the beforehand Fox-owned Marvel heroes Disney lately acquired. Then she dumps a stack of her comedian books in entrance of a clerk, able to promote them as a result of, as she places it, heroes don’t exist in the true world. Lawler delivers her traces with self-assuredness that by no means feels over-exaggerated or clunky, as some younger Disney protagonists could be. She retains even the dullest scenes from being completely boring.

In the long run, the story isn’t a few lady and her super-squirrel a lot as it’s about Flora and her dad and mom. She shares a particular relationship with each of them, which Khan and Copeland convey in particular moments, which largely flesh out the emotional crux (although Flora echoing Tony Stark in Avengers: Endgame by telling her dad, “I like you 3000” simply seems like heavy-handed company synergy). The CGI squirrel provides some cuteness and laughs, however he’s auxiliary to the film at finest, and at worst, his chase sequences drag. Nonetheless, with Lawler commanding her scenes — her dynamic with Hannigan and Schwartz sparkles — Flora & Ulysses typically transcends its bland hijinks into cute and heartwarming household dynamics.

Flora & Ulysses will probably be obtainable to stream on Disney Plus on Feb. nineteenth.

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