Phyllis writes romance novels, with characters she says look like superheroes. Book covers framed from her books adorn the walls and she is very proud of a Jack and Rose trophy awarded by Romantic Living Magazine. But the separation from George made it difficult for her to write about love. She hopes buying an old-fashioned typewriter will help her connect with a new story.
Flora also feels disconnected. We first see her selling her comic book collection because the superheroes who “come to us with a purpose, to save those in need and to stay vigilant when danger draws near” never show up in. the real world. Its motto is: “Do not hope. Watch.” She says she is cynical and likes to prepare for the worst. One of his favorite books is called Terrible things can happen to you.
But wonderful things can happen too. Flora meets a squirrel named Ulysses. Or rather, she names him Ulysses after rescuing him from a Roomba-style outdoor vacuum, involving mouth-to-squirrel-to-mouth resuscitation. She brings him home. As Don Marquis ‘”free bard verse”, Archy the Cockroach, he leaves a poem on Phyllis’ old-fashioned typewriter. Flora observes Ulysses, and despite herself, she begins to hope. Ulysses could well be a superhero.
The superhero power of this film comes from its endearing and quirky characters, wacky humor, and sweet ideas about optimism even when the going goes wrong. Everything is done with a light touch, although some families may be sensitive to issues such as traumatic blindness, parental separation and the threat of euthanizing an animal.
Writer Brad Copeland (“Arrested Development”) and director Lena Khan get things done fast, with energetic action scenes accompanied by lively songs, ranging from OK Go to Cat Stevens, Bill Withers and Tom Jones. But it never feels rushed. The film gives us time to get to know the characters and to get to know them. In a delightful scene, George, working alone at night in the store, dances in the aisles.
Each role is played with verve and humor. Schwartz is great to Lawler, with a warmth that makes their connection easy and natural. Flora has a new friend, a scholar boy named William (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth) who has been diagnosed with hysterical blindness following an incident he will not discuss. But it turns out to be a game for adventure, with special skills that include “seeing” via echolocation by making small chirps, like a bat, and “a knack for absorbing short drops.”