Review: Harmless 'Flora & Ulysses' doesn't find that magic spark
Courtesy of Disney+
There’s a superhero squirrel on the loose in Disney’s adaptation of Kate DiCamillio’s 2013 Newbery Award-winning book: “Flora & Ulysses'' shortened from “Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures.” It marks another direct-to-streaming clunker that has good intentions but never rises beyond slapstick pitfalls, and corny jokes perpetuated by a CGI mammal.
There are elements in Lena Khan’s film that are delightful, notably the charm among young Flora (Matilda Lawler) and her parents Phyllis (Alyson Hannigan) and George (Ben Schwartz), except the origin tale of Ulysses sucks the winds out of its sails. The film is composed of countless running gags and situational comedy you’d find in dozens of classic Disney films. Especially the entire second half where the gang outsmarts an animal control officer (Danny Pudi) who’s cartoonish presence is serviceable for a chuckle or two, but after a while grows tiresome. There’s some exposition sprinkled in about Flora’s obsession with comic books, and touches on subjects like divorce and separation. After all it wouldn't be a Disney film without the obligatory life lessons.
The mis-adventures of this duo pave way for solid messaging on what it means to be a “true hero” and that friends come in all shapes and sizes. But much of the special effect driven sequences hinder the impact because we’re thrown from one mindless shinanigan to the next instantaneously. Usually a 90 minute kids flick is heaven for adults, and though young children might be entertained by a fluffy squirrel who does some nifty tricks, the notable lack of any magical connection among the characters might have both parties yearning for something more worthy of their time.
FLORA & ULYSSES debuts on Disney+ Friday, February 19th