Flora and Ulysses isn’t your run of the mill superhero story but with many Marvel and DC films over the years, it offers a change of pace.
The opening of Flora and Ulysses name drops the likes of Silver Surfer and Wolverine before going into Incandesto (Darien Martin), a character created by Flora’s (Matilda Lawler) father. They are superheroes in the comic book world but we never see them “show up in the real world” as the titular character says. She’s a cynic so it isn’t a surprise to see her take this point of view. It’s weird how she’ll devour all of these comic books but at the end of the day, they’re just books. They aren’t real life and never will be.
Phyllis Buckman (Alyson Hannigan) is a romance novelist but she’s trouble writing since Flora’s comic book artist father George Buckman (Ben Schwartz) moved out. George’s creations all had power, purpose, and courage. Unfortunately, George would lose his own courage because of having trouble getting published.
It’s not every day that a runaway vacuum cleaner sucks in a squirrel. And yet, this is really where the film takes off. Flora takes Ulysses as her own. Not long after, the film becomes somewhat preposterous. I mean, you really have to suspend disbelief. For one, this squirrel is digesting comic books by the page and I do not mean eating them. Next thing we know, Ulysses is showing off with super powers?!? He can fricking type! But somehow, Ulysses having such powers will have an impact on Flora in ways we could never believe. It’s unfathomable but let’s just go with it.
Every hero has their villains. In this film, there are certainly more than one. Animal Control’s Miller (Danny Pudi) is among them. Maybe it’s because of our attachment to animals but Miller could rival any screen villain. Sure, he’d lose in a fight to Thanos or Thrawn but he’s the guy who tries to get in the way between us and our beloved furry friends.
Visually speaking, the film weaves between live-action and comic book panels to tell the story. But beyond this, a lot of the slapstick comedy is hysterical especially at the bakery. I should note that it feels like some of the slapstick comes at William Spiver’s (Benjamin Evans Ainsworth) expense. William is suffering from temporary blindness and some of the comedy is a bit much in this regard. He gets his eyesight back by the end of the film for what it’s worth.
As cynical as she is, Flora’s life is in a better place by the end of the film. Moreover, Ulysses has a way of bringing the entire family together. Some couples require therapy but I guess others just need a squirrel with super powers to find the love again.
When you grow up watching Disney movies, Flora and Ulysses reminds you of what they used to be. There’s so much old-school charm here in both the story and the humor itself. Unfortunately, some of that humor comes at the extent of a kid suffering from temporary blindness. Maybe it’s just the conversations over the past few years but shouldn’t we not be making fun of the blind? But that part aside, I had a lot of fun especially on rewatch–it’s not a great idea to watch a movie in the morning after staying up late for the newest WandaVision episode.
The film is based on Kate DiCamillo’s Newberry Award-winning book, Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures. I’m personally not familiar with the source material but it doesn’t matter to me. What does matter is that this film has a home on Disney+ and it’ll be watched repeatedly.
Flora and Ulysses might come off as preposterous to an extent but at the end of the day, this adventure is charming and delightful fun.
DIRECTOR: Lena Khan
SCREENWRITER: Brad Copeland
CAST: Matilda Lawler, Alyson Hannigan, Ben Schwartz, Anna Deavere Smith, Danny Pudi, Benjamin Evans Ainsworth, Janeane Garofolo, Kate McCucci