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The release of a new Disney film is always a bit of an occasion -- especially now many of us can view it so easily through Disney+. The latest movie is a screen adaptation of Kate DiCamillo’s bestselling story Flora and Ulysses. It’s a film that shows the power of family bonds, and that anyone -- no matter how small and, um, furry -- can change lives for the better.
Give Me The Basics In 13 Words
The heartwarming adventures of a 10-year-old girl and her superhero squirrel.
A… A… Superhero Squirrel?
That’s right. Ulysses -- for so he is named -- develops incredible powers after getting sucked up by a rogue vacuum cleaner. He can fly. He can lift great weights. He can even find his way around a typewriter, a task that any human under the age of 50 might struggle with.
And Who Is Flora?
Flora’s the 10-year-old -- a girl who likes to pretend she’s a cynic, but is actually very open-minded about the world. Well, you’d have to be to adopt a superhero squirrel. She’s played by Matilda Lawler, who gives a splendid performance in the half-title role. Flora lives with her mother, a struggling romantic novelist, and hangs out with her estranged father, an even-more-struggling cartoonist.
So What Kind Of Adventures Do The Unlikely Duo Have?
The film roughly follows the plot of the original book, by Kate DiCamillo. Flora discovers Ulysses’s gifts very early in the film, and the two rapidly form an unshakeable bond. Having a supercharged rodent in tow causes plenty of high jinx, both at home and in the local donut cafe. Flora’s mom wants the squirrel out, while her superhero-obsessed father takes quite a shine. This isn’t the kind of superhero film where you can expect giant robots, cackling supervillains or major perils. Rather, it revolves around mild slapstick (with a hammy pest-control officer as the fall guy) and family frictions. All very traditional Disney.
What Else Do I Need To Know?
Disney, ever keen to cross-promote its properties, is working overtime here with the Easter eggs. Flora’s doorbell rings to the tune of Darth Vader’s Imperial March; while the comic store guy wears a Kylo Ren T-shirt. Iron Man, Spiderman and a host of other Marvel heroes are namechecked at every opportunity. Even Toy Story sneaks a crafty cameo. And check the credits sequence for a parade of clever movie references -- not all of them Disney. Touches like this make the film an entertaining watch for adults, too.
Flora and Ulysses is a gentle, uplifting family film, with some fine performances and plenty of giggles. This is very traditional storytelling, with few surprises but plenty of heart. Ulysses’s superhero antics are surprisingly restrained, often pushed to the background while the film focuses on developing relationships. The talented rodent writes some mean poetry and bosses that typewriter, but the leap-a-tall-building-in-a-single-bound moments are squirreled away to the movie’s climax. The recommended age of 6+ feels about right, though kids used to pacier films might be a little distracted.
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Although originally from the Midlands, and trained as a biochemist, Matt has somehow found himself writing about London for a living. He's a former editor and long-time contributor to Londonist.com and has written several books about the capital. He's also the father of two preschoolers.