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Author, Kate DiCamillo, is one of only six people to win two Newberry Medals for their writing. Her first was for The Tale of Despereaux (2003) and her second was for Flora & Ulysses (2013). The latter has since been adapted as a feature-length film by Disney and recently debuted on Disney+. Do I think the film is any good? Read on to find out!
And remember, SPOILERS AHEAD!
Directed by Lena Khan, the film introduces us to a young ten-year-old self-proclaimed cynic named Flora, played by Matilda Lawler. Her biggest passion in life is comic books and superheroes, most probably due to the influence of her comic book writer father, George Buckman, played by Ben Schwartz. Mr. Buckman has created multiple superheroes including Flora’s favorite, Incandesto, a superhero who “shines with the light of a thousand suns”.
Mr. Buckman doesn’t live with her, however, as he and his wife, played by Alyson Hannigan, have separated. Flora lives with her mother (who is a struggling romance novelist) while Mr. Buckman lives in his own apartment while working at an office mart, a job which he hates.
Flora’s life soon changes when she saves the life of a red squirrel in her yard who accidentally got sucked up by their neighbor’s rogue robotic vacuum.
She takes the squirrel up to her room and names him Ulysses after the vacuum that just tried to kill him.
She begins to wonder if the accident has turned Ulysses into a superhero like the comic books say. Her suspicions are confirmed when she discovers that Ulysses typed out a meaningful message on her mother’s typewriter the next day.
It’s not long before Mrs. Buckman discovers the squirrel and has Mr. Buckman get rid of it when he comes to visit Flora. Mr. Buckman takes Flora and Ulysses to a nearby donut shop all while Flora is trying to convince to her father that Ulysses is a superhero. He doesn’t believe it, of course, until Ulysses gets loose in the donut shop and starts to “fly”. The trio escape before the donut shop can call an animal control officer, Miller, played by Danny Pudi. Miller makes it his Javert-like purpose to find and capture that “rabid” squirrel if it’s the last thing he does.
Mr. Buckman and Flora decide that they must do all they can to protect Ulysses from her mother (and later, from Miller). They eventually gain a third believer in their cause: one of Flora’s neighbor’s English nephews, William Spiver, played by Benjamin Evan Ainsworth. He’s in town visiting and is hysterically blind.
He’s temporarily lost his vision due to a stressful situation which he hasn’t divulged. He soon spends much of his time with Flora and Ulysses and eventually believes that Ulysses is a superhero when he saves him from falling from Flora’s treehouse using his super-squirrel strength.
This Ulysses situation gives happiness to Mr. Buckman who decides to quit his job. As he visits Mrs. Buckman more often, he realizes that he doesn’t want to divorce her. Mrs. Buckman also realizes that she wants Mr. Buckman back in her life. She also soon discovers Ulysses and reluctantly allows him to stay. She doesn’t quite believe he’s a superhero, but it makes Flora and the household happy, so…why not? However after an interview with a journalist goes badly, Mrs. Buckman takes Ulysses to the woods to get him out of her house.
She’s unable to go through with it though and reunites him with her family. Miller has since caught up with the family and confiscates Ulysses resulting in the Buckmans and William attempting a break-in at the animal facility to rescue Ulysses. William divulges that he lost his sight after pushing his mother’s boyfriend’s car into the war. He eventually regains his sight at the facility and they all rescue Ulysses. They decide that Ulysses has helped them all he can and in true superhero mode, he must help others now, so they release him into the wild. They all collaborate and write a successful comic book based on their adventures and Flora is no longer a cynic.
And that was Flora & Ulysses! I can’t defend it as a good movie, but it’s honestly harmless. The child actors are by far the best whilst most of the adults are…tolerable.
If you want something that will pass the time and put a smile on your face, this will do the trick. If you want something award-winning, this ain’t it, chief.
So, my final score for this film is 20/35 = 57.14% (F) !
The next review will be posted on March 23, 2021.