FLORA & ULYSSES (DISNEY+) (2021)
SYNOPSIS: The film is based on the Newbery Award-winning book about 10-year-old Flora, an avid comic book fan and a self-avowed cynic, whose parents have recently separated. After rescuing a squirrel she names Ulysses, Flora is amazed to discover he possesses unique superhero powers, which take them on an adventure of humorous complications that ultimately change Flora's life-and her outlook-forever.
Based on the Kate DiCamillo’s 2013 Newbery Award-winning book “Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures”, Flora and Ulysses will have young kids in stitches with its abundance of silly CGI squirrel antics presented in true Disney fashion.
Flora (Matilda Lawler) is a cynic young girl who loves to read comics but believes that superheroes don’t actually exist in the real world until she met a squirrel who possess super powers and writes poetry after a near death experience. At the same time, Flora is struggling with the temporary separation of her parents. Mum (Alyson Hannigan from American Pie and How I Met Your Mother) is an award-winning cheesy romance novelist who has lost her inspiration and dad (Ben Schwartz from Sonic the Hedgehog and Space Force) has given up hopes on becoming a comic book creator and now works at an office supply store.
Since nearly every movie needs a good antagonist, we have an overzealous animal control guy (Danny Pudi) to give the movie a cartoony threatening presence. Together with her temporarily blind friend and neighbour, William (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth), Flora must work to keep Ulysses safe from being captured and also hoping to patch up the relationship of her parents along the way.
Things are a lot easier now since Disney owns Marvel. There are generous mentions of the Sliver Surfer and Wolverine right in the prologue. Nothing liked some free endorsement to entice the young generation into comics. Flora and Ulysses employs the meanings and values on how to be a true superhero in real-life to produce a few positive messages but they are mostly buried under loads of non-stop slapstick and action gags.
By leaving a disastrous trail everywhere it goes, the digitally-created squirrel did a decent job in entertaining the masses. All it has to do is messed up Flora’s room, her mom’s typewriter, eat cheeseballs and destroyed a donut shop. Fortunately, it also doesn’t talk annoyingly like Alvin the chipmunk except making cute critter noises. There isn’t any huge scientific explanations on how Ulysses acquired his superpowers perhaps parents need to impart this knowledge to the kids or simply dismissed this as pure “Hollywood magic”. There’s a menacing kitty dubbed Mr Klaus who is constantly after the animal control guy that is kind of hilarious as well.
Alyson Hannigan and Ben Schwartz did more than a decent job balancing the family drama and squirrel madness. At least both actors are genuinely likeable. Kudos to Matilda Lawler who did a marvellous not irritable job as the smart, heroic Flora. Flora and Ulysses is a predictable, entertaining children flick which was sort of Disney’s bread-and-butter decades back before they took over Pixar, Star Wars and Marvel. Some treatment simply never gets old although Mummy and Daddy are the only ones likely to catch the Titanic joke.
Review by Linus Tee