‘Flora & Ulysses’ (Review)

Feb 18, 2021

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Flora & Ulysses
Walt Disney Studios

Directed by Lena Khan
Written by Brad Copeland
Starring: Matilda Lawler, Alyson Hannigan, Ben Schwartz, Anna Deavere Smith, Danny Pudi, Benjamin Evan Ainsworth, Janeane Garofalo, and Kate Micucci

Flora & Ulysses is inoffensive to a fault. Indeed, Flora & Ulysses is the kind of film one struggles to find any kind of word for besides “inoffensive.” It may prove a welcome enough distraction for families looking to whittle away 90 minutes, but nothing that occurs during its runtime proves especially memorable or creative. I smiled a few times, or said, “eh, that’s cute,” to myself, but when I sat down to review this film, I found myself flummoxed. If one of the goals of a review is to describe how a work made you feel, how does one articulate a feeling of inertness?

That’s not to say Flora & Ulysses is an incompetent film. Lena Khan directs this story of a girl who befriends a super powered squirrel ably, and it’s difficult to pinpoint any weak links on its surprisingly pedigreed cast. But the cast also lacks a strong link. It’s a problem that’s mirrored in its screenplay. 

Brad Copeland’s screenplay carries many of the necessary ingredients for a family film (a worldly protagonist, sassy dialogue, slapstick humor), but it adds next to no flavor to them. Compare it to a work like Lilo & Stitch (also on Disney+) and Flora & Ulysses’ problems are made even more stark. While working with many of the same components as Flora & Ulysses, Lilo & Stitch is a film that still feels vibrant and fresh even today. Yes, it also features a worldly protagonist, sassy dialogue, and slapstick humor, but it uses them in service of a story that is equal parts hilarious and moving, allowing the audience to feel a sense of urgency as it approaches its climax.

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That sense of urgency never arises in Flora & Ulysses, and that must at least partially to do with the role it fulfills on the Disney+ streaming platform. It’s less a film and more a program to fill content space. While watching it, it was hard for me to feel anything other than the cold hand of a corporate product at work. Something perfectly serviceable, but lacking in any distinctive personal touch.

Score: 6.0

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