‘Flora & Ulysses’ Is A Wonderful Family Adventure That Embraces The Power of Comics – Review
Flora & Ulysses is the latest Disney+ original film to hit the popular streaming service, and it is an absolute delight. Adapted from the children’s novel of the same name by Kate DiCamillo, the story follows self-proclaimed cynic Flora Buckman, who loves comics and superheroes. One day, she saves the life of a squirrel, and well, the squirrel may be a superhero. The heroic Ulysses might be the key to saving Flora and her family, or he is just a really weird rodent.
Flora & Ulysses gives audiences someone to root for, and while an animated donut-loving flying squirrel is easy to love, it is Flora who you’ll likely be most invested in. Matilda Lawler is quite the find. She so perfectly captures the childlike wonder that comes with being an excitable kid who loves comics. She also manages to tap into Flora’s disappointment at her parents splitting and the difficulty that comes with trying to maintain maturity when all you want is your family together. Flora as a character is easily the best part of the film. Although she believes Ulysses is a superhero, it is she who rises to be the kind and considerate hero that saves the day. Every decision she makes comes from an honest and honourable place. Plus, her absolute adoration for comics and reading makes her a hero worth rooting for.
The ensemble around Lawler are equally game and bring the right amount of energy to the film for an enjoyable viewing. We have fan favourites such as Sonic and Willow, a.k.a. Ben Schwartz and Alyson Hannigan, as Flora’s parents, Danny Pudi (who previously starred in Lena Khan’s feature debut The Tiger Hunter) as the overzealous animal control officer, and Benjamin Evan Ainsworth rounds out the cast by doing a complete 180 from his performance as Miles in The Haunting of Bly Manor. Ainsworth plays Flora’s new friend, the sweet yet strange William.
The film is a warm and inviting embrace to kids; young girls specifically. The movie encourages them to dive into the imaginative worlds and important themes found within the pages of comic books. Flora is a young girl who exhibits the qualities that she so admires from the heroes within the comics she reads, especially the ones her dad writes. For so long there have been those who discouraged young girls from reading any form of literature, especially comics that are supposedly “for boys”. However, that is certainly not the case and never should have been. Comics, like any form of literature, can encourage independent thought, and by extension, teach people about extending kindness to others, seeking more knowledge, and doing the right thing.
Flora & Ulysses celebrates the transformative powers of comics extremely well. The stories of heroes emphasize a range of positive attributes from being compassionate to fighting for justice (just to name a few). However, the good doesn’t stop there. Comics are an interactive medium that combines the art of drawing and colouring with creative narrative writing. Children should be embracing these forms of art and Flora & Ulysses so beautifully explains why. So, if you are a parent or guardian of a young child, help foster those creative tendencies by picking up a comic or two, and introducing them to Flora & Ulysses.
Director Lena Khan and screenwriter Brad Copeland perfectly execute Flora & Ulysses with a light and breezy approach that highlights the comic book influences. Khan’s directing comically replicates the style and pacing of modern superhero movies complete with action beats, humorous one-liners, rising stakes, a worthy adversary, and an emotional engine that keeps the whole movie going. Jake Monaco’s score maintains the excitable energy needed for a family-friendly movie and underscores the joy of young Flora’s adventure. Nearly every aspect of the film is designed to make you feel nostalgic and excited to be on a fun, albeit childish, adventure. Anyone can enjoy this film – unless you are a cynic who only wants heroes to pout and contemplate their existential crisis while pummeling villains into the ground.
If you want a fun time that reminds you of the best of what comics can offer and a great family adventure, check out Flora & Ulysses on Disney+. You can also find the book at many local bookstores.