The Flora & Ulysses cast went there. Like, it really went there. This new children’s movie about a little girl named Flora Buckman and her super-smart pet squirrel named Ulysses—which began streaming on Disney+ today—features no less than six actors that anyone who was watching TV in the 2000s will know and love. It’s delightful. And honestly? Flora & Ulysses director Lena Khan really didn’t have to do that, but did.
Here’s the thing: We’ve been doing this pandemic for almost a year now. That means parents have been dealing with a full year of canceled vacations, remote learning, and weekends inside. One of the only safe activities to keep kids entertained these days is by streaming family-friendly movies at home, and there are only so many family-friendly movies available on streaming. If you release a decent-looking movie about a fiercely independent little girl and her adorable pet squirrel, parents are going to stream that movie for their kids, and their kids are going to love that movie. (Especially because Flora & Ulysses is based on the already-popular 2013 children’s novel of the same name, by author Kate DiCamillo.)
What kids probably aren’t going to care about—though correct me if I’m wrong, because I’m neither a kid nor a parent—is whether a beloved queer icon from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and one-half of the best couple on How I Met Your Mother is in this movie. And yet there Alyson Hannigan is, charming as ever as Flora’s mother, a somewhat clueless but successful romance novelist, currently experiencing writer’s block. Nor will kids care if Flora’s dad—a failed comic book artist—is played by Ben Schwartz, whom millennials will always remember for his iconic role as Jean-Ralphio Saperstein in Parks and Recreation. But there Schwartz is, delivering a sweetly hilarious performance, and just a little bit of Jean-Ralphio dancing.
And it just keeps going: Community fan-favorite Danny Pudi gamely makes himself the butt of every joke as the film’s vermin-hunting villian. One-half of the musical comedy duo Garfunkel and Oates, Kate Micucci, has the pleasure of pretending there is a CGI squirrel in her face. (She nails it.) Saturday Night Live alum Bobby Moynihan appears as the disgruntled comic book store owner, rocking a scraggly beard look that honestly works for him. Stand-up comedian, actor, and Wet Hot American Summer scene-stealer Janeane Garofalo shows up. Freakin’ Tony-nominated playwright and actor Anna Deveare Smith is here, doling out words of wisdom! Nancy McNally saves the day again!
Each new cast member appearance brought with it a little burst of joy and recognition, making Flora & Ulysses—which is, at the end of the day, a movie for kids, even if it’s a particularly fun one—far more appealing to me, an adult. Even the kid actors are noticeable, including Benjamin Evan Ainsworth, a standout as Miles on Haunting of Bly Manor, as Flora’s hysterically blind friend. And to top it all off, young newcomer Matilda Lawler, who plays the lead character Flora, is excellent, and impressively, in nearly every scene of the movie. All in all, Flora & Ulysses is a delightful little film, with a cast way better than it has any right to be. What’s not to like?
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