One thing Disney’s taught us in the last couple years is that superheroes come in all shapes and sizes, whether they’re hulking large or microscopic. And sometimes they’re small and furry.
In the lovable film “Flora & Ulysses,” based on the novel of the same name, a young comic book fan stumbles into her own extraordinary adventure. Flora (a criminally adorable Matilda Lawler) is a 10-year-old self-proclaimed cynic. Why? Her parents, an author of bodice-rippers who’s suffering from writer’s block (Alyson Hannigan) and a failed comic book writer (Ben Schwartz), are separated. But a near-fatal accident between an ordinary squirrel and a rogue household appliance grants Flora her own superhero, Ulysses, a bushy-tailed wonder with super strength, intelligence and — “holy unanticipated occurrences!” — the ability to fly.
Flora is captivating, as is her world, full of costumes and capes; she sees heroes soar past her on the street, and in a blink her world changes from 3-D to whimsical 2-D comic illustrations. There’s plenty of laughs too; Brad Copeland, who wrote the screenplay, adeptly combines quippy banter and zany physical comedy (even from a cute C.G.I. rodent). Lena Khan’s direction taps into the good-natured looniness, but so does the cast, which includes a superheroic lineup of comedy powerhouses: Danny Pudi, Bobby Moynihan, Janeane Garofalo, Kate Micucci and even the stage and screen great Anna Deavere Smith.
There are some small gaffes. Hannigan and Schwartz have fun as the playful parents but lack chemistry and never seem quite comfortable in the roles. And a British neighbor boy (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth) feels like one eccentric character too many.
“Flora & Ulysses” veers close to falling into the trap of cheesiness that kids’ movies of this genre often find themselves in, but miraculously never does. In fact, this hopeful comedy, in showing how a twitchy-tailed hero can change a family, lifts off and flies.
Flora & Ulysses
Rated PG. Running time: 1 hour 35 minutes. Watch on Disney+.
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