Flora & Ulysses is a family superhero comedy film, based on the children’s novel of the same name and stars Matilda Lawler, Alyson Hannigan, Ben Schwartz and Danny Pudi. Flora & Ulysses is a Disney+ original and was released on 19th February 2021.
Flora & Ulysses follows ten year old comic book lover Flora Buckman who befriends a ‘superhero’ squirrel, whom she names Ulysses. The premise of the story is actually quite entertaining as a whole, it’s nice to have a different approach to a superhero movie, with the squirrel gaining superpowers rather than the human. Plus, the light-hearted adventures of both Flora & Ulysses are easy to follow, if not a little simplistic.
The animated super squirrel Ulysses looks fantastic and genuinely looks like one of the more realistic ‘live action’ animated animals I have seen from Disney. His big bushy tale, twitching whiskers and nimble movements accurately capture the mannerisms of a squirrel and I was pleased that Ulysses didn’t ‘speak’ and instead was simply able to understand Flora. Too often we see strange and unnatural voiceovers for animated animals, so I was glad this was omitted for a well-polished character like Ulysses.
Despite nailing the character of Ulysses, I had difficulty understanding the significance and reasoning of his superpowers. At the beginning of the film, Flora provides a rather sweet backstory into how Ulysses gains his powers, however beyond this, his powers are somewhat insignificant for the rest of the film. Ulysses has the ability to understand Flora as well as superhuman (or supersquirrel I suppose) strength and flight, as well as a random ability to write abstract poetry.
Despite his abilities, Ulysses is a superhero with no motive. He has no humans to save or super villain plotting to take over the world to stop, he doesn’t even have a fellow squirrel love interest! Throughout the film, I was always expecting some form of climax where Ulysses would be the hero and save the day but this doesn’t turn out to be the case, so in the end I was left feeling a little bewildered. That being said, I haven’t read the children’s book which the film is based upon, so I can’t comment on how closely the film adaptation is in comparison to the book.
Whilst Flora & Ulysses isn’t exactly your typical superhero movie, there are still plenty of Marvel superhero and pop culture references included which make it an enjoyable film, particularly for older viewers who can appreciate them more. From the more obvious Iron Man easter egg of Flora telling her dad she loves him “3000”, to the more discreet Star Wars ‘Imperial March’ doorbell at Flora’s house, it’s great to see Disney flexing their ownership muscle rights in a lighthearted adventure like Flora & Ulysses!
Matilda Lawler plays the lead character Flora Buckman and her performance is fantastic. Matilda gets a lot of screen time as Flora and is seemingly the genuine article, with a variety of scenes showcasing her on-screen emotions and abilities. What’s even more impressive is the fact that Matilda will have filmed the majority of scenes having to imagine a super enhanced squirrel co-starring with her! The rest of the cast are superb too, particularly Alyson Hannigan and Ben Schwartz’s characters who have a convincing, spiky on-screen relationship.
A fun and furry tale, Flora & Ulysses is a sweet take on the superhero genre, even if not being the most remarkable of films.