Flora and Ulysses review: A happy, uplifting film

Flora and Ulysses cast: Matilda Lawler, Ben Schwartz, Alyson Hannigan
Flora and Ulysses director: Lena Khan
Flora and Ulysses rating: 3

In Flora and Ulysses, the latest cinematic offering from Disney, which is streaming on Hotstar in India, it becomes clear that Disney is the patron saint of all superheroes. Not just those who fly, run or are invisible, but also of those who fit in one’s pocket and are furry. And while we will continue meet the typical superheroes in their tights and suits as the year progresses, Disney starts us on the superhero tour with Ulysses, a squirrel.

Flora, a precocious 10-year-old, who will put anyone to shame with her quick wit and resourcefulness, finds Ulysses, an ordinary garden variety squirrel, and decides to take her home. Flora, while being all this and more, has the added burden of being a cynic. She is dealing with her parents who are separated and are struggling in their respective fields — one is a failed comic book writer (Ben Schwartz) and the other a struggling romance writer (Alyson Hannigan). Throw in a pet squirrel, who suddenly possesses superpowers in a freak home accident, and voila, we have a Disney movie on our hands. But all credit can’t go to the cinematic giant. The movie is based on the famous novel by the same name, written by Kate DiCamillo.

It’s quite something to see humans play second fiddle to a tiny orange ball of fur, as Ulysses scampers, runs and jumps to save Flora and Co from irreversible harm. And right on cue, when the bond between Flora and Ulysses was as tight as it could be, enter the local pest control guy, Miller (Danny Pudi in excellent aviator-wearing-evil form), who swears by the adage that ‘squirrels can’t be domesticated’. Miller is on a mission to capture Ulysses. We all know how that goes.

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The highlight of the film is the quirky, chuckle-worthy details. Right from the costume, the house to the numerous pop-culture references that are woven in — we hear Jack and Rose from the Titanic to I Love You 3000 from Avengers in the same breath. Flora’s imagination gives the space for ample shifts to an animated 3D alternate world, and one can just soak it all in. The banter between Flora and almost everyone else, keeps you engaged and you mentally thank yourself for never having to face Flora on your own.

Classic Disney themes of family, happiness, general well-being pop their heads repeatedly. The film delivers on what it promised to be, a happy, uplifting, mood-changing film. Watch it for the antics of Flora for sure. Her scene presence is quite magnetic, we for sure have a future A-list Hollywood star on our hands. It’s interesting to see Schwartz playing a semi-brooding, non-hyper character for the first time. Wish the story had spent more time on the arc between him and Hanigan who plays his wife and Flora’s mother. We never really know fully why the two separated.

Watch Flora and Ulysses, curled up on the couch, preferably with your family. With the year that the entire world has had, we could do with such films, which make you believe that better things are around the corner.

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