Monday, February 22, 2021

Flora & Ulysses (2021)


Streaming Services: Disney+
Movie Name/Year: Flora & Ulysses (2021)
Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Family
Length: 90 minutes
Rating: PG
Production/Distribution: Walt Disney Pictures, Netter Productions, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, Disney+
Director: Lena Khan
Writers: Brad Copeland, Kate DiCamillo
Actors: Matilda Lawler, Alyson Hannigan, Ben Schwartz, Benjamin Evan Ainsworth, Danny Pudi, Darien Martin, Anna Deavere Smith, Bobby Moynihan, John Kassir, Nancy Robertson, Janeane Garofalo, Kate Micucci, Christine Lee, Jesse Reid, Javier Lacroix, David Milchard, Kyle Strauts, Victoria Katongo, Emma Oliver
Blurb from IMDb:  The adventures of a young girl and a squirrel with superpowers.

Cat’s Point of View:
I fell in love with the trailer for Flora and Ulysses when we were determining February’s Top 20 list. To say I had eager anticipation for the movie’s release would be a monumental understatement. I figured that it would be adorable and a feel-good family adventure. I am happy to say that this film exceeded my expectations by far more than a whisker.
The timing of this release to Disney+ couldn’t have been better. We’re in the middle of an unprecedented winter amidst a global pandemic – at least in my neck of the woods. Things have looked pretty bleak recently. I’ll spare you the long story that goes with that. The point is, however, that the message of hope delivered by this production just hit home in all the right ways.

I’ve always had a soft spot for squirrels. In fact, as I’m writing my review there’s one sitting on the post of my deck just outside my bedroom window, and another prancing all over the bench swing in the backyard. We have a family of them living in the pin oak behind our house. They’ve been great amusement for me when I’ve been laid up at various points in the last several years. I do understand that they’re no joke when it comes to electrical grids and sometimes like to chew their way into places they don’t belong – but we’re not talking about those sort of mischievous squirrels. Our squirrels are well-behaved… for wild animals, that is. I digress…
It’s that sort of whimsy that everyone needs right about now. The world has been captivated by cinematic stories of comic superheroes – the Marvel universe especially. Flora and Ulysses draws on that, respectfully, and finds its own niche within the genre for the little red, furry fledgling hero.
This tale is more than just a superhero origin story, however. It’s a beacon projecting a message of hope wrapped in the experiences of a family that could desperately use some. It is laughter, tears, and the relatable rollercoaster ride that many families of this age know too well. The family isn't perfect - in fact, far from it. There's no saccharine-sweet perfection here. They're quirky, sometimes awkward, and often can't see how they get in their own way. 

Aside from the engrossing story, the cast was also pretty amazing. Matilda Lawler (Evil, Good Grief, The Block Island Sound) and Benjamin Evan Ainsworth (Emmerdale Farm, The Recycling Man, The Haunting of Bly Manor) are two young actors to look out for. They each had an amazing screen presence, though Lawler stole the show for me. The adults weren’t all that bad either. You can’t go wrong with Allison Hannigan (How I Met Your Mother, You Might Be the Killer, Fancy Nancy).
If I had to pick one thing that bugged me about this film, I’d be hard-pressed to give an answer. I could still provide one, though – it was a CGI cat. There was something off about the way it was done that just evaded my ability to ignore that it was a computer rendering. The scenes it was involved in were great, however, so I’m entirely willing to look past it. The animation team did a spectacular job with Ulysses, and that’s what really mattered.

I was even geeking out over the soundtrack. There’s one song in particular that plays in a scene about ¾ through the movie. Cat Stevens’ “Moonshadow” was a staple of my youth. It was a song that got played often while riding in the car with my mom. Aside from the nostalgia that particular track provided for me, it underscores the message of the story very well and was excellently placed. The song goes through a whole gauntlet of horrible things that could hypothetically happen to the singer – and then he gives an upside of each instance. For example, the lyrics pose the notion that if he ever lost his legs he wouldn’t complain about it – he just wouldn’t have to walk everywhere anymore.
Flora and Ulysses is a special movie, one of my new favorites, and well worth the cost of the Disney subscription. This is one squirrelly tale that you’d be nuts to pass up. (Yes. Yes, I did. Not Sorry!)

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 70%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 63%
Metascore – 65%
Metacritic User Score – 4.0/10
IMDB Score – 6.5/10
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 4.5/5
P.S.: Short mid-credit’s scene.
Movie Trailer:

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