3.5 out 5 stars
In our superheroes world, one phrase that continually comes to mind is that these marvels of nature do come in all shapes and sizes. This goes beyond the modern-day need for diversity in our fictional characters when our imaginations allow writers to consider every possibility. With this in mind, it is not a surprise that the hero's latest incarnation would come in the form of a squirrel named Ulysses.
Based on Kate DiCamillo’s wonderfully imaginative children’s novel Flora & Ulysses, this furry champion of good deeds will win over audiences. The only person who might outshine this micro-hero is the cynical, comic-book-loving 10-year-old named Flora Buckman (Matilda Lawler). She has a dim view of the world that is dipped in hope, because of all that is going on within her family. Her father was an aspiring graphic novelist, but his characters' only true fan seems to be his supportive daughter. After continual rejections of his work, George Buckman (Ben Schwartz) spirals into a depressive state. His mental state causes him to separate from his wife, Phyllis (Alyson Hannigan) and work at the local office supply store. She is an accomplished romance novelist, but realises that her muse was her quirky, artistic husband. Which shows that the Buckman family home was in a bit of turmoil.
Flora is doing all she can to bring her family back together when she must rescue a squirrel from a rogue automated vacuum cleaner. Upon resuscitating the animal from his harrowing experience, she hides him in her room until she can figure out what to do with her new friend. They both discover that the unassuming rodent has acquired superpowers within their ‘secret lair' during the vacuuming incident. Now his young apprentice must help him harness these new abilities. She has to work with a new neighbour named William Spiver (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth) to help her furry friend. The only challenge is that William is blind, but he seems to have many of a red-suited hero's skills from the Marvel Universe. As the trio tries to uncover Ulysses' powers, they must work to unify the Buckman family and combat a newly discovered nemesis, the animal control expert, Miller (Danny Pudi).
With the Marvel Universe at her disposal, director Lena Khan (The Tiger Hunter) is allowed to weave in the familiar comic book heroes of this era. At the same time, she introduces the world to its latest crusader for good. She manages to capture the magic and youthful vigour of Kate DiCamillo’s novel with a wonderful cast that is all centred on the dynamic personality of Matilda Lawler’s depiction of Flora. This family adventure is guided through her narrative. A story that is reminiscent of an era of accessible entertainment that contains a heart-warming message for its viewers. The film will resonate with fans of graphic novels and anyone who enjoys a bit of super-powered escapism with a taste of family unification added in for fun.
Not that the film does not have its shortcomings, but most are easy to overlook for the sake of the overall story. The glaring issue that means the difference between an average superhero film and a great one is the villain. While all of the players filled the shoes of their characters, unfortunately, Danny Pudi never quite makes for a believable antagonist. Obviously, he is there for the humorous elements, but even then he fails to deliver. He is fantastic in Community, but he struggles to prove that he can carry out his villainous intentions here. Beyond this element and the overly sentimental undertones of a children’s novel, Flora & Ulysses is worth a look by all families. This mini-hero and his two side-kicks make an enjoyable time that should prove to be fun for boys and girls during this season.
What should parents know about Flora & Ulysses? There are few warnings to give to families as they sit down to watch this engaging movie. Despite some slapstick humour and a bizarre scene that involves a tranquiliser gun, the majority of this film is hilariously fun. This film should be perfect for little children and their parents to watch together.
Reel Dialogue: Some great points to chat with your kids after the film are the value of marriage, family and the use of our imaginations.
‘Finally, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.’ Philippians 4:8