Flora & Ulysses, on Disney+ Hotstar Premium, veers dangerously close to kid-movie cheesiness but miraculously never does

Flora & Ulysses is a captivating, hopeful comedy that, in showing how a twitchy-tailed squirrel can change a family, lifts off and flies.

The New York Times February 19, 2021 10:21:41 IST
Flora & Ulysses, on Disney+ Hotstar Premium, veers dangerously close to kid-movie cheesiness but miraculously never does

One thing Disney’s taught us in the past couple of years is that superheroes come in all shapes and sizes, whether they’re hulking large or microscopic. And sometimes they’re small and furry.

In the lovable film Flora & Ulysses, based on the novel of the same name, a young comic book fan stumbles into her own extraordinary adventure. Flora (a criminally adorable Matilda Lawler) is a 10-year-old self-proclaimed cynic. Why? Her parents, an author of bodice-rippers who’s suffering from writer’s block (Alyson Hannigan) and a failed comic book writer (Ben Schwartz), are separated. But a near-fatal accident between an ordinary squirrel and a rogue household appliance grants Flora her own superhero, Ulysses, a bushy-tailed wonder with super-strength, intelligence and — “holy unanticipated occurrences!” — the ability to fly.

Flora is captivating, as is her world, full of costumes and capes; she sees heroes soar past her on the street, and in a blink, her world changes from 3-D to whimsical 2-D comic illustrations. There’s plenty of laughs, too; Brad Copeland, who wrote the screenplay, adeptly combines quippy banter and zany physical comedy (even from a cute CGI rodent). Lena Khan’s direction taps into the good-natured looniness, but so does the cast, which includes a superheroic lineup of comedy powerhouses: Danny Pudi, Bobby Moynihan, Janeane Garofalo, Kate Micucci and even the stage and screen great Anna Deavere Smith.

Flora  Ulysses on Disney Hotstar Premium veers dangerously close to kidmovie cheesiness but miraculously never does

A still from Flora & Ulysses. Image from Twitter

There are some small gaffes. Hannigan and Schwartz have fun as the playful parents but lack chemistry and never seem quite comfortable in the roles. And a British neighbour boy (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth) feels like one eccentric character too many.

Flora & Ulysses veers close to falling into the trap of cheesiness that kids’ movies of this genre often find themselves in, but miraculously never does. In fact, this hopeful comedy, in showing how a twitchy-tailed hero can change a family, lifts off and flies.

Maya Phillips c.2021 The New York Times Company

Flora & Ulysses is now streaming on Disney+ Hotstar Premium.

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