Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Movie Review: Flora & Ulysses

Flora & Ulysses is frustrating in that it's enjoyable but - taken as a whole - not actually all that good. That's another way of saying aspects are really good, but the whole is less than the sum of its parts.

What sets it apart is that the good stuff is, well, really good, and there's a lot of it. This isn't a situation where there's a cool moment or two amidst a bad movie: the dialogue is consistently funny, the characters are likable, the casting is far more inspired than you'd expect from the premise, and the direction is solid. It's just there's really not much movie here, as though someone forgot to settle on a premise or point before making it.

In theory, this is the story of a young girl struggling with family troubles who adopts and befriends a superpowered squirrel. Only despite being highly focused on the situation's relationship to comics and superheroes (including a great deal of cross-promotional Marvel references), the superpowers are ultimately superfluous. This isn't really a superhero story, nor is it a deconstruction of superhero stories. It doesn't meaningfully comment on the genre, it doesn't incorporate elements or tropes in a way that builds out the story it's actually telling... the superhero stuff is just kind of there to kill time, fuel jokes, and allow them to reference the MCU from time to time (not that they need an excuse: there are also numerous Star Wars references, along with a bunch of homages to other Disney/Fox properties).

But, again, none of that stops this from being genuinely fun. As disposable entertainment goes, it gets the job done. The CG squirrel is cute enough, provided you're not too sick of this style of animated creature to enjoy it.

The pieces are all there, it just needed an outline. But if you set your expectations appropriately, there's no reason not to have fun with this. I mean, movies like this being at all good is a new phenomenon, one parents of the world owe the Paddington films a huge debt for inspiring.

If Disney's really going to keep cranking these out, it's nice to see they're putting in some effort. This isn't a home run, but it's solid enough I don't regret the time I spent watching... despite the fact it never really went anywhere.