A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Kids could be inspired to hold onto their artistic and creative dreams, even if they come up against roadblocks.
Superheroes have a purpose -- usually liberty, freedom, or revenge -- and they help others. Families and friends help each other through rough times. Being cynical and "seeing what's real" means you can miss out on magic and hope.
Positive Role Models
Flora demonstrates perseverance in her determination to save and believe in Ulysses, and in her parents. She's very independent, walking around town on her own, selling off old comic books for cash. Her parents, separated, are both facing writer's block, both adrift and struggling. Flora's family welcomes William. It's said that a character played by a sighted actor has been blind since a traumatic incident; he (spoiler alert) abruptly regains his sight and declares that his condition must have been "hysterical." Principal cast members are White; supporting cast includes some actors of color.
Violence & Scariness
Lots of mayhem and disruption involving Ulysses the squirrel: He's sucked into a vacuum, and Flora performs CPR to save him. He destroys inside and outside of a diner and dining room. A temperamental cat attacks people. Flora says her mom killed her hamster when she hit it with a pan. We learn that William pushed a car into a lake, which got him sent away for a summer. Miller shoots animals and humans with tranquilizer darts; kids are within his line of fire. He says a squirrel will need to be euthanized to test its brain tissue for rabies. A car door breaks off while kids are inside, and mention is made that one of them later fell out at a turn. The same car nearly has a head-on collision with a bus.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Phyllis writes romance novels; book covers, some of them sensual, line her walls. She can't think of a synonym for "steamy" while writing. A separated man and woman share an awkward hug, then kiss at the end of a movie. Another adult couple comes close to kissing. Flora lies that she's "pregnant" when she's caught with Ulysses in her shirt.
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Products & Purchases
Titanic -- the movie and characters -- is a running reference. Also mentioned/seen: The Fantastic Four, Wolverine, Nissan, Froot Loops, Pop Tarts, Underwood typewriter, Instagram, Denim Records.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Adults drink wine with meals.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Flora & Ulysses is a quirky, kid-friendly story about a superhero squirrel. Based on the book by Kate DiCamillo, it has dramatic elements involving separated parents and action scenes played for humor. Ten-year-old Flora (Matilda Lawler) has become cynical as a result of her parents' struggles. She says that the hardest part of not having hope is watching people -- namely, her parents -- who once did have hope and no longer do. Flora demonstrates perseverance in pushing through the hard times thanks to a newfound conviction in Ulysses' superpowers. The squirrel, while adorable, causes mayhem and destruction wherever he goes, including tearing apart a diner and destroying a dining room. The animal control agent who's trying to capture Ulysses shoots tranquilizer darts randomly at Flora and other characters, hitting one multiple times. It's also said that Ulysses will need to be euthanized to test his brain tissue for rabies. A man nearly crashes his car with two kids in it, and a car door is ripped off. A temperamental cat attacks people, and Flora's friend William (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth) declares that his blindness must have been "hysterical" after it abruptly goes away. Flora's mom (Alyson Hannigan) writes romance novels, and some sensual book covers are framed on her walls. She and Flora's dad (Ben Schwartz) share an awkward hug and later kiss. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This offbeat book-based film is as silly as you might expect from the premise, but it also packs a sneaky emotional punch. If you find yourself shedding a tear over the fate of, yes, a squirrel, chalk it up to the flawless, adorable animation of Ulysses and a mostly commanding performance by Lawler as the outwardly clever but inwardly despondent Flora. She's entirely convincing as a 10-year-old who's holding things together while her parents fall apart. You know she shouldn't be in that position -- any more than she should be sitting in the front seat of her dad's new sports car -- but that's part of the zaniness and also the weightiness of the role. Flora pulls her family back together through the strength of her conviction ... in a magic squirrel. Whether her story is real or imagined, well, that's up to you to decide. But it's the characters' own belief in magic that helps them rediscover their hope, confidence, and path forward.
Following Flora & Ulysses' use of superhero metaphors, Flora herself isn't unlike her dad's creation, the superhero Incandesto, whose light saves souls from the darkness of despair. The gold-clad Incandesto (Darien Martin), who regularly pops up to cheer Flora on, is just one more quirky but likable character in the cast, which also includes William, a dry, formal chap who has an unexplained British accent and blindness that turns out to be (as he says) "hysterical," and the squirrel-obsessed/tranquilizer-happy animal control agent Miller, whose mania recalls Bill Murray in Caddyshack. As these two character descriptions may imply, the film doesn't seem particularly concerned with contemporary political correctness. This -- together with throwback references drizzled throughout and a zippy soundtrack that includes classics from Tom Jones, MC Hammer, and Cat Stevens -- adds up to give Flora & Ulysses a somewhat retro feel.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.