New Movies on Disney+

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New Movies on Disney+

Disney+ is home to all of the entertainment giant’s studios and franchises, meaning its latest releases are scattered among a variety of properties. But we’re looking solely at movies here, so no Obi-Won Kenobi series and no short films like Pixar’s Nona. What we do have are the latest feature-length films from Marvel, Pixar, National Geographic and even 20th Century Studios (had you forgotten Disney scooped them up, as well?). There’s live-action with the emphasis on action. There’s animation aplenty. And there are riveting documentaries.

Here are 10 of the newest movies streaming on Disney+:

1. Pinocchio

pinocchio.jpg Disney+ Release Date: September 8, 2022
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Stars: Tom Hanks, Cynthia Erivo, Giuseppe Battiston, Luke Evans, Benjamin Evan Ainsworth, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Keegan-Michael Key
Genre: Adventure
Rating: PG

Watch on Disney+

Let’s be real: Any contemporary adaptation of Pinocchio will come with strings attached. In the recent cavalcade of productions based on the 19th century Italian tale, none comes more entangled than Robert Zemeckis’ live-action retelling of Disney’s 1940 classic. Yet, by skillfully manipulating the lines of reality, Zemeckis creates a film worthy of its visual efforts, one with a mostly real purpose: To update the film for contemporary audiences. The familiar plot remains. Geppetto (Tom Hanks) is a lonely clockmaker and sometimes puppeteer who wishes for a son above all things. One magical night, the Blue Fairy (Cynthia Erivo) answers his wish and bestows the gift of life on the puppet Pinocchio. But life isn’t enough. Pinocchio (voiced by Benjamin Evan Ainsworth), in his naivete, wants to be “real” for his father. Disney’s 1940 original is brutal. Its menacing villains and high stakes make Pinocchio’s punishments violent and threatening. This is because the morals begin posed are equally rigid and severe. Where the original feels overly didactic and moralizing, Zemeckis takes the opportunity to lighten the danger and present new visuals and ethics better suited for today’s audiences. As the visionary behind Death Becomes Her, The Polar Express and, most significantly, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Zemeckis has become a master of blending digital animation, human performances and classic storytelling. With its complex worlds composed of humans, animate objects, talking animals and faeries, a live-action adaptation of Pinocchio requires a hybrid approach to filmmaking technology. The material seems tailor-made to Zemeckis’ expertise, and he flexes those skills with gusto. The film’s visual style brings the fairy tale alive with depth and texture, while its ending effectively shows that boyhood doesn’t need to come as a result of corporal punishment—that magical transformation doesn’t have to always be physical—and it doesn’t always have to be the child’s responsibility to change. Even though it may lack some nuanced darkness and some of the writing feels a little “on the nose,” as Jiminy himself says, with this family-friendly picture, Zemeckis blends state-of-the-art technology with more up-to-date morals to prove Pinocchio a real and alive text. —B.L. Panther


2. Lightyear

lightyear-poster.jpg Disney+ Release date: August 3, 2022
Director: Angus MacLane
Stars: Chris Evans, Keke Palmer, Peter Sohn, James Brolin, Taika Waititi, Dale Soules, Uzo Aduba, Mary McDonald-Lewis, Efren Ramirez, Isiah Whitlock Jr.
Rating: PG

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Pixar’s trade is in time. Its hardest-hitting stories push kids, and the parents that take them to the movies, to consider our impermanence. To see the sand trickling down our hourglasses. Their signature bittersweetness slips through alongside the coarse grains. Lightyear teleports this surefire poignancy into a pulpy sci-fi adventure. Its strapping hero flies full speed ahead when confronting the passage of time, accelerating to an enjoyable but decidedly finite success. Opening text sets the tone and clears up the confusion of Lightyear’s own IP-forward making: This is the in-universe film that served as inspiration for Toy Story’s Buzz Lightyear figure. Got it? No? This time he’s supposed to be a guy, made of hair and skin and bravado, instead of a toy made of plastic, electronics and bravado. Beyond that initial bit of corporate absurdity, Lightyear is, for the most part, easy to wrap your head around. It doesn’t give you time to mull its meta-premise over: We crash-land straight into Star Command’s Buzz (Chris Evans) and his BFF/commander Alisha Hawthorne (Uzo Aduba) exploring an uninhabitable alien world. They’re vine-cutting, insect-blasting throwbacks to huckster magazine covers; Amazing Stories, Startling Stories, Thrilling Wonder Stories already supplied all the adjectives I could ever need. The 105-minute movie zips at the same clip as a flashlight-lit, under-the-covers page-turner. As Lightyear brings up both sci-fi history and the history of its own company, mining the very origins of Pixar, it sees the auteurish animation house take a new genre past the limits of homage. But the film also establishes itself as a step in an endless progression of creative collage, a historical marker built to augment its inspirations and carry them towards a future movie. Lightyear is a beautiful starship with precious genre cargo, functional and direct in its simple mission to carry on. —Jacob Oller


3. Rise

rise.jpg Disney+ Release date: June 24, 2022
Director: Akin Omostoso
Stars: Uche Agada, Ral Agada, Jaden Osimuwa, Elijah Shomanke, Yetide Badaki, Dayo Okeniyi
Genre: Sports biopic
Rating: PG

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Rise is an inspirational sports biopic that tells the remarkable story of the Antetokounmpo family, and the three brothers—Giannis, Thanasis and Kostas—who have all become NBA superstars in recent years. The film is expected to arrive before the end of 2022. The story of the Antetokounmpo family mixes Nigerian heritage and Greek nationality with extremely unlikely athletic prowess, considering that all three brothers not only made it to the NBA but became NBA champions. Acting newcomers Uche Agada and Ral Agada—real-life brothers—portray Giannis and Thanasis Antetokounmpo, while actors Jaden Osimuwa and Elijah Shomanke portray older brothers Kostas and Alex Antetokounmpo. Rise is directed by Akin Omotoso. —Jim Vorel


4. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

dr-strange-multi.jpg Disney+ release date: June 22, 2022 (Originally released May 6, 2022)
Director: Sam Raimi
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olsen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Wong, Xochitl Gomez, Michael Stuhlbarg, Rachel McAdams
Genre: Action, Adventure
Rating: PG-13

Watch on Disney+

Marvel still has a lot to figure out with how it handles its women, but it’s getting the multiverse idea under its feet. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness starts its fast-paced but forgettable first act with dialogue that could be improved by a middle schooler before giving way to an emotional Elizabeth Olsen performance that holds down some eye-roll-inducing lines about motherhood, ridiculous cameos as plot conduits, and horror cinematography, sound and direction bouncing captivatingly between the grotesque and comical. Despite boring opening salvos that reminded me why so many people have grown hateful of the Marvel movies, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness eventually becomes very fun to watch. It’s weird that so many Sam Raimi fans were hoping for a return to his horror auteur form considering (1) we’ve seen a bunch of skilled indie filmmakers squish their vision into the Marvel frame for a big paycheck and (2) Raimi is known to the wider film-watching public as the guy that made the original Spider-Man trilogy. It’s weirder still that the horror fans were kinda right to be hopeful: The second and third acts are full of horror imagery, jump scares and a Bruce Campbell cameo (and fellow Raimi collaborator Danny Elfman does the score). One of my favorite things about the first Doctor Strange was that the introduction of magic into the MCU meant exciting psychedelic visuals. Multiverse of Madness alternates between being comparatively rudimentary and going past the original into the macabre. Unfortunately, as with all Marvel movies, the director must square their vision with the circle of Kevin Feige’s machine. There are a lot of cool moments, but a lot of the flaws are derived from needing to set up a new superhero and connect to two or three or 20 movies. Opening with heavy CG that the actors aren’t interacting with in a way that’s legible as any kind of tangible space makes it hard to accept the movie. It’s less interesting. Too much time and money was spent on designing those FX monsters for me to come away thinking about how they could have gotten more out of the opening scenes by instead setting them in a series of dark rooms. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness will surely be a commercial success, but it could have been more artistically satisfying if it wasn’t weighed down by the need to remind people of its outward connections. It stands better on its own than No Way Home but it’s still relying on early ‘00s Fox movies and internet fan castings for theatrical audience pops. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is everything you could reasonably expect from a Sam Raimi-Kevin Feige collaboration, but not much more.—Kevin Fox, Jr.


5. Hollywood Stargirl

hollywood-stargirl.jpg Disney+ Release date: June 3, 2022
Director: Julie Hart
Stars: Grace VanderWaal, Elijah Richardson, Tyrel Jackson Williams, Judy Greer, Judd Hirsch, Uma Thurman
Genre: Teen romantic drama
Rating: PG

Watch on Disney+

Director Julia Hart’s Stargirl was a pretty big hit for Disney+ in 2020, banking on the heavy marketing clout and massive fanbase for singing star/internet sensation Grace VanderWaal, who played the title character. This sequel, meanwhile, of course has VanderWaal back in action, perhaps pursuing her “shot at the big time.” The original film was based on author Jerry Spinelli’s novel of the same name, which means that this sequel might be based on sequel Love, Stargirl, but this has yet to be confirmed. VanderWaal’s huge fandom will probably be happy either way, as she seems born to be a Disney starlet. —Jim Vorel


6. Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers

chip-dale.jpg Disney+ Release date: May 20, 2022
Director: Akiva Schaffer
Stars: John Mulaney, Andy Samberg, KiKi Layne, Will Arnett
Rating: PG

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Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers is weird romp through Disney’s own history of traditional animation, even as the company continues to forge ahead having largely abandoned that art form. The movie lives at the nexus of love and bemusement at these old cartoons and a kind of despair at what the system that created them has become. It’s a funny movie about cartoon chipmunks that I enjoyed, too! I promise! Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers—the Disney Afternoon cartoon from the early ’90s, complete with its earworm theme song, re-cast classic Disney characters, in this case the two little chipmunks whose name is a play on the style of furniture (and that they have since come to share with the hunky male exotic dancing troupe, as the movie gleefully reminds us) featured the duo joining up with a few other friends and forming a detective agency, with plots sending them all over the world to foil kid-friendly evil plots. Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers—the live-action-and-animation, Who Framed Roger Rabbit-succeeding, BoJack Horseman-ish movie that dropped on Disney+ in May—puts all its eggs in the basket of jokes about animation, 2D and 3D, with ruthless digs at “Ugly Sonic” and the uncanny valley of early ’00s CGI. A lot of that is going to go way over the heads of any kids watching this thing, and a good deal of it will probably seem creepy or disturbing to them. That’s because the movie isn’t aimed at those kids, but their parents, who were raised on these cartoons and who will unmistakably hear the cry for help embedded in the movie. The heroes are dragging themselves through boring lives, their adventurous days over and not much in the way of family to fill the void. The movies are all crossover crap. The villain, it turns out, is another washed out Disney star whose sinister plan is to take other has-been toons and use disfiguring surgery to turn them into knockoffs of their former selves, forced to perform as pale imitations of themselves in cheap cash-in mockbusters. It’s funny and smart. I don’t regret having seen it. I recommend it to fans of animation generally and Disney animation history in particular, and I wish Disney would do more of what it used to do best: Create new stories. —Kenneth Lowe


7. Polar Bear

polar-bear.jpg Disney+ Release date: April 22, 2022
Directors: Alastair Fothergill, Jeff Wilson
Star: Catherine Keener
Rating: PG

Watch on Disney+

Polar Bear is absolutely breathtaking. Keener’s narration follows a baby polar bear from birth to when she becomes a mother of her own. That means the documentary followed the “ice bear,” as she calls herself, for years through tragic loss, the panicked hunt for food, devastating isolation and eventual joy as she has a family of her own. Climate change and its effect on the Arctic is the ever-present backdrop to the movie. The end tells us “the Arctic could be ice-free by 2040,” and Polar Bear will definitely inspire you to get involved in the climate’s dire situation. —Amy Amatangelo


8. Better Nate Than Ever

better-nate.jpg Disney+ Release date: April 1, 2022
Director: Tim Federle
Stars: Rueby Wood, Joshua Bassett, Aria Brooks, Lisa Kudrow
Rating: PG

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Based on author Tim Federle’s 2013 novel of the same name, and directed by the author himself, Better Nate Than Ever is a musical family comedy, telling a coming-of-age story about a teenager with Broadway aspirations, running away to the big city. It stars newcomer Rueby Wood as the titular Nate Foster, along with Joshua Bassett, Aria Brooks and, in a major role, the delightful Lisa Kudrow. —Jim Vorel


9. Olivia Roddrigo: driving home 2 u

driving-home.jpg Disney+ Release date: March 25, 2022
Director: Stacey Lee
Stars: Olivia Roddrigo
Rating: TV-14

Watch on Disney+

“Hi, I’m Olivia Rodrigo,” says a tiny kid with a microphone and bangs in what looks like home video footage. She exhales loudly, then clarifies: “From California.” The clip in question finishes out the montage of music videos, interviews and live performances that opens OLIVIA RODRIGO: driving home 2 u (a SOUR film), a mouthful of a new Disney+ project from director Stacey Lee. The film is a supplement to the now 19-year-old Rodrigo’s smash album SOUR, which appeared in the midst of her whirlwind 2021—a year that began with her still best known as the star of the Disney+ series High School Musical: The Musical: The Series (mouthfuls all around), and ended with her named TIME’s Entertainer of the Year. “I just wanna sing a little song to my friends and family out there…starting now,” continues Tiny Olivia Rodrigo before we permanently link up with her adult self. Over the next 70 or so minutes, the latter takes us through each of SOUR’s tracks, performing them live with an all-women band on a handful of stops between Salt Lake City and Los Angeles, the stretch that apparently saw her write a sizable chunk of the album. The film is less a making-of documentary than a concert film with expository interludes between songs, wherein Rodrigo offers behind-the-scenes anecdotes. The performances themselves are the film’s biggest highlight, the songs having been given entirely new arrangements for the occasion. There’s some great stuff about SOUR itself in Lee’s film, to say nothing of its uber-talented maker and the undeniably exciting career ahead of her. But when Tiny Olivia Rodrigo tells the camera that she just wants to “sing a little song to my friends and family out there,” it turns out to be as much a thesis statement for the film as a cute family keepsake. —Sydney Urbanek


10. Cheaper by the Dozen

cheaper-dozen.jpg Disney+ Release date: March 18, 2022
Director: Gail Lerner
Stars: Gabrielle Union, Zach Braff, Erika Christensen, Ron Funches, Brittany Daniel
Rating: PG

Watch on Disney+

This latest remake of the 1950 film of the same name follows several versions with Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt in the early 2000s. This time around, the parents of the massive family clan are Zach Braff and Gabrielle Union, heading up a cast that includes a bunch of kids, in addition to supporting turns from Ron Funches, Erika Christensen and Brittany Daniel. Plot wise, the film actually seems to be closer to 1968’s Yours, Mine and Ours than previous versions of Cheaper by the Dozen, with the family being made of a big, merged group that came together Brady Bunch-style, rather than two parents who simply had an unusually large number of children together. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this is another Disney+ exclusive. —Jim Vorel

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