Flora & Ulysses
by George Wolf
Is “Holy Bagumba!” gonna happen?
Too early to tell, but Flora & Ulysses wants it to happen.
Ten year-old Flora (Matilda Lawler) likes to blurt the phrase out in excited surprise, and there have been plenty of surprises since Ulysses got super powers.
Ulysses (a CGI squirrel with noises courtesy of John Kassir) has skills, no doubt, and in between trashing donut shops and learning how to type, he just might teach a self-described young cynic that there is some magic in this world after all.
Director Lena Khan brings the latest animal adventure tale from novelist Kate DiCamillo (The Tale of Despereaux, Because of Winn-Dixie) to the screen with broad brushes, easily digestible messages and family-friendly hijinks.
Khan does try to keep the parents interested through winking nods to E.T, Alien, and The Shining, along with a curious amount of music montages. The playlist ain’t bad (Bill Withers, Tom Jones) but it’s big enough to make you wonder how much was added just to get the film to feature length.
Young Lawler is a treat, with spunky charm to spare and a seemingly natural sense of comic timing (especially with a CGI co-star). But the adapted script from Brad Copeland (Spies in Disguise, Ferdinand) is all surface-level spoon feeding, where the family strife is sanitized, the danger little more than silly and the squirrel is a furry, slo-mo ninja.
In other words, perfectly fetch for the younger set transitioning from picture books to family films.