New Kids Movies

And where to stream them

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New Kids Movies

As the father of three young adults, I remember clearly those days when we’d watch just about any new kids movie that was released. And I also remember feeling like studios took advantage of that desperation for entertainment, filling the latest unoriginal script with enough silly gags that the little ones would giggle as the parents checked the time. I was always so thankful for those rare family films made with the same kind of care that went into the latest arthouse flick.

We’re keeping a running list of the latest movies for children for you to peruse and find something that the whole family might enjoy. We’ve included a synopsis of each.

Here are 15 of the biggest new kids movies from the last few months:

1. Pinocchio

pinocchio.jpg 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
Rating: PG
Runtime: 101 minutes

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. Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero

dragon-ball-super.jpg Release Date: August 19, 2022
Director: Tetsuro Kodama
Stars: Masako Nozawa, Toshio Furukawa, Ryo Horikawa, Y?ko Minaguchi, Mayumi Tanaka, Aya Hisakawa, Bin Shimada, Hiroshi Kamiya, Mamoru Miyano, Miyu Irino
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 99 minutes

Only in theaters

Liking the Dragon Ball franchise can be encapsulated in watching your favorite character change over time. As a kid, maybe you liked the too-cool Trunks, the boy-bandish time-traveler who appears from nowhere to hack apart the latest villain like he was nothing. Maybe you liked Krillin, the underdog monk trying to keep up with the non-humans he’s found himself running with. But for me, Piccolo stands as a bastion of seriousness and responsibility in a world where the child-brained Goku runs the show. Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero finally gives Piccolo his day in the sun. It also consigns itself to themes of cascading legacies. This affects its heroes, villains and us, reflecting its source material’s specifics—-the generations of death-defying fighters descending from Bardock to Goku to Gohan to Pan—and serialized form. Here, the blasts from the past are the high-tech, Nazi-like Red Ribbon Army. Updated for 2022 and the alt-right’s links to business-friendly conservatism, the organization hides behind a pharmaceutical company and adopts a mobster aesthetic of shoulder-padded suits, chomped cigars, tiny mustaches and massive pompadours. One of the more amusing twists of Super Hero is an early retelling of the Dragon Ball Z Cell Saga from the antagonists’ perspective—a story of aliens and opportunists combining their strength to take out humanity’s greatest creation…even if said creation was a power-mad bio-android. But Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero was never going to be about its villains. It might have “Super” twice in its name, but it also has “Hero,” something that applies more to struggling single-dad Piccolo than any other character in the series. His thankless work is never done—cleaning up after his powerful friends, picking up their children from preschool, swallowing his past pride as his relationship to the world matures—but it can still be respected. For the older crowd still waxing nostalgic about weekday afternoons letting anime wash over them, it makes sense that he’d get his due in a movie that feels like another generational transition for the franchise. —Jacob Oller

3. Luck

luck.jpg Release Date: August 5, 2022
Director: Peggy Holmes
Stars: Eva Noblezada, Simon Pegg, Jane Fonda, Whoopi Goldberg, Colin O’Donoghue, Lil Rel Howery, Flula Borg, John Ratzenberger, Adelynn Spoon
Rating: PG
Runtime: 115 minutes

Watch on Apple TV+

Eighteen-year-old Sam (Eva Noblezada) has always been unlucky. Her keys fall down a manhole. Her bike has a flat tire. She inadvertently locks herself in the bathroom. Her toast always lands jam side down. But perhaps her biggest misfortune is that she never found her “forever family” and grew up in the Summerland Home for Girls. (The movie kicks the cliché of killing parents off up a notch: Sam never had parents at all!). Sam’s luck changes when she meets talking black cat Bob (Simon Pegg) who accidentally leaves behind a lucky penny. The penny turns Sam’s life around. Suddenly she’s stocking the shelves at her job at Flowers and More with aplomb. Her toaster works perfectly and even lands her toast jam side up. When Sam accidentally flushes the lucky penny down the toilet (what is a kid’s movie without a little toilet humor?), she is desperate to find another one and follows Bob down the secret portal to the Land of Luck. The plot of Luck is far too dense and convoluted. I suspect the movie’s target audience won’t have the patience for it. And that’s too bad. Because inside Kiel Murray’s complex script, there is a positive message: The idea that bad luck is just the mirror image of good luck, and that bad luck teaches you how to adjust and respond to what life brings. That some of Sam’s best experiences and friendships began with bad luck. That perhaps our bad experiences help make us who we are. —Amy Amatangelo

4. DC League of Super-Pets

super-pets.jpg Release Date: July 29, 2022
Director: Jared Stern, (co-director) Sam Levine
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Kate McKinnon, John Krasinski, Vanessa Bayer, Natasha Lyonne, Diego Luna, Thomas Middleditch, Ben Schwartz, Keanu Reeves
Rating: PG
Runtime: 101 minutes

Only in theaters

DC League of Super-Pets is a CG-animated film about Superman’s dog learning to make and share friends that is much better than you would expect. From the studio that brought you the highs of The Lego Movie and the lows of Space Jam: A New Legacy, it’s unsurprisingly technically competent and surprisingly watchable for adults—heavily favoring children’s comprehension but smart enough and with enough subtleties for accompanying adults to not be bored. The film focuses on Krypto (Dwayne Johnson), Superman’s (John Krasinski) lifelong companion from Krypton, learning to be less jealous in his relationship with Superman—first to accept that Superman can also love Lois (Olivia Wilde), and then learning that it’s not just okay but necessary for him to have other friends. They come in the form of Ace (co-lead Kevin Hart) and his friends from the animal shelter (Vanessa Bayer, Natasha Lyonne, Diego Luna), all of whom get superpowers after Lex Luthor (Marc Maron) brings a meteorite of orange Kryptonite to the earth in an attempt to empower himself. A comedy adventure ensues where the animals have to step in to help the Justice League (voiced, in addition to Krasinski, by Keanu Reeves, Dascha Polanco, Jermaine Clement, Daveed Diggs, John Early and Jameela Jamil). The movie references as far back as the 1970s-80s Super Friends and as recently as DC films from the last half-decade, but it doesn’t get weighed down by those references—they’re more structural or aesthetic than drawn-out rhetorical callbacks. The most emotionally captivating moments focus the film’s themes about the relationships people form with their pets, and the senses of duty we feel to the ones we love, all of which gives DC League of Super-Pets a big heart.—Kevin Fox Jr.

5. Thor: Love and Thunder

Release Date: July 8, 2022
Director: Taika Waititi
Stars: Chris Hemsworth, Christian Bale, Tessa Thompson, Jaimie Alexander, Taika Waititi, Russell Crowe, Natalie Portman
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 119 minutes

Only in theaters

Love and Thunder may take place after the Snap that ended the threat of a Snap that would undo the Snap that undid the original Snap, but the franchise’s fourth installment (and Hemsworth’s eighth turn as Thor Odinson) nonetheless feels as close to “Original Recipe” MCU as audiences are likely to get for a while. The tonal refresh of Ragnarok also goes a long way in explaining why, amongst a Phase 4 featuring movie-length baton exchanges, C-list headliners and super teams, and a multitude of multiverses, Love and Thunder is the first that doesn’t feel expressly handicapped by flaws stemming from sacrifices made to set up and get aloft the post-Endgame MCU. Granted, Waititi’s brand of “no riff unjuiced” comedy generates some flaws of its own, but it remains a potent antidote to the often dark, dour and dire storylines found in the source material. Much as with Ragnarok, Love and Thunder has no shortage of spectacle, and mostly maintains a strict no-plodding policy in terms of pacing. Unlike in the comics, the origin and identity of the new Thor is immediately obvious to viewers and characters alike, allowing writers Waititi and Jennifer Kaytin Robinson to move straight to a barrage of relationship jokes revolving around … Mjolnir and Stormbreaker (which, in the Waititi-verse, feels inevitable). But unlike Ragnarok, in which Waititi’s disruptive playfulness felt mostly harnessed and in proper proportion to the scale of the events unfolding (and by both the scene-chewing and ensemble work of the larger cast), Love and Thunder’s story is prone to extra beats (bleats?) and extended riffs meant to fill the spaces left otherwise unoccupied by absent Hulks, Lokis, Helas, Grandmasters, Skurges and the like. This results in moments that feel off—like the light banter in the immediate (and perhaps still ongoing!) kidnapping of children—or just over-stretched—like the introduction and visit to Omnipotence City. (Blame the source material for that “unobtainium”-level name.) The result is a movie significantly more flawed than its franchise predecessor yet more fun than anything we’ve seen in Phase 4 thus far.—Michael Burgin

6. The Sea Beast

the-sea-beast-poster.jpg Release Date: July 8, 2022
Director: Chris Williams
Stars: Karl Urban, Zaris-Angel Hator, Jared Harris, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Dan Stevens, Kathy Burke
Rating: PG
Runtime: 115 minutes

Watch on Netflix

When cartographers allowed their senses of imagination and self-preservation to fill the unexplored regions of their maps, they used to warn of creatures like lions, elephants and walruses. Creatures beyond understanding, with teeth and trunks and tusks easy to caricature into danger. But we mostly remember that when you sail to the faded edge of knowledge, there be dragons. The Sea Beast deftly hones this ancient human fear into a sharpened spear tip, striking at ignorance. Its swashbuckling adventure navigates a sea filled with massive critters sure to whet kids’ appetites for piracy, Godzilla films and exciting animation. The first movie from longtime Disney story staple Chris Williams after leaving the House of Mouse for Netflix, The Sea Beast is, to paraphrase Jared Harris’ Ahab-like Captain Crow, all piss and vinegar. That the film even alludes to the phrase, and drops a few other lightly-salted lines you might expect from some seasoned sea dogs, is indicative of its separation from the sanitized juggernaut. It looks violence in the eye; it isn’t afraid to make its threats real. All rightfully so. Telling a tall tale of hunters—mercenary crews funded by a colonialist crown to take out the kaijus populating the ocean—wouldn’t be right without at least a little edge. Our way into the world, the young Maisie (Zaris-Angel Hator), has experienced its dangerous realities firsthand: Her parents went down with a ship, leaving her as one of dozens of hunter orphans. But that hasn’t stopped her from lionizing her martyred family (something explicitly encouraged by the monarchy) and seeking her own glory. Stowing away on Crow’s ship, the Inevitable, she and the capable Jacob (Karl Urban) find themselves confronting the legendary ambitions they’ve built up in their own heads. Williams and co-writer Nell Benjamin immediately drop us into the Inevitable’s quest to take out Crow’s toothy and horned Red Whale, dubbed the Red Bluster, with total confidence that there’s no time like maritime. As our eyes roll and pitch across the impressively realistic waves and our ears try to follow the meticulously detailed helmsmanship, the hunting scenes ensnare us like the catch of the day. We understand the hierarchy of the diverse crew, the honor code among hunters, the tactics needed to take down imposing creatures that look like Toho turned their greatest hits into Pokémon. It’s savvy and respectful writing, put into legible action by Williams’ skilled hand, that trusts in its setting and subject matter to be inherently cool, and in its audience to greedily follow along. By the time the lances are flying, the cannons are firing and the creatures are dying—or are they?—you’re as deeply hooked as any dad watching Master and Commander. A delightful new-school deconstruction of old-school Romantic adventure that never compromises on the lushness of setting, color and emotion inherent in the latter, The Sea Beast rises to the front of Netflix’s animated offerings like a high tide.—Jacob Oller

7. Minions: The Rise of Gru

minions-gru.jpg Release Date: July 1, 2022
Director: Kyle Balda
Stars: Steve Carell, Pierre Coffin, Taraji P. Henson, Michelle Yeoh, RZA, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Lucy Lawless, Russell Brand, Julie Andrews, Dolph Lundgren, Danny Trejo, Alan Arkin
Rating: PG
Runtime: 88 minutes

Only in theaters

By now we’ve grown used to animated films possessing a million cuts per minute, wall-to-wall sound design and non-stop frenetic energy. But The Rise of Gru’s hysteria is simply on another level. Directed by Kyle Balda, the fifth entry in the beloved Despicable Me franchise tracks the exhausting origin story of supervillain Gru (Steve Carell). What kicks this adventure into action is Gru’s decision to apply for the Vicious 6, the most badass villain supergroup since the Crime Syndicate of America. But the doe-eyed 12-year-old is quickly shut down by Belle Bottom (Taraji P. Henson), the fiery leader of the squad, who tells Gru to come back when he can really impress her. So, the young scoundrel does what any good aspiring villain would do, stealing the priceless Zodiac Stone from the Vicious 6’s lair. The remainder of the film sees Gru flee from the Vicious 6, while his faithful little Minions do everything in their power to bring their “little boss” back; and yes, you can bet they run into quite a few obstacles along the way! There’s kung-fu, there’s San Francisco and there’s a man-lobster hybrid, in addition to just about anything else the creators want to stick in there, no matter how much they have to disfigure the story to make that happen. While a lot of this stuff is undeniably enjoyable, it also resembles a frenzied fever dream. After watching Gru, I felt as though I was finally starting to get a grasp on our society’s bizarre infatuation with Minions. Not only are they incredibly sweet and loyal in a genuinely touching way, but their strange little mushy bodies lend themselves well to physical comedy. One of the Minions gets his goggles embedded in his face during a kung fu stunt, and when he pops them back out, it’s ASMR-level satisfying. The purpose of the Minions may be that they are the epitome of visual comfort, sort of like those mildly eerie baby sensory videos. This, paired with its irrefutable sweetness, sometimes makes Gru worth watching. Yes, it veers on a total frenzied nightmare at times. But hey, what did you really expect from another Minions movie? —Aurora Amidon

8. Marcel the Shell with Shoes On

marcel-the-shell-with-shoes-on-poster.jpg Release Date: June 24, 2022
Director: Dean Fleischer-Camp
Stars: Jenny Slate, Rosa Salazar, Thomas Mann, Isabella Rossellini
Rating: PG
Runtime: 89 minutes

Only in theaters

Marcel the Shell with Shoes On gives us the opportunity for a delicate, whimsical and poignant escape that will make you feel stronger, taller and better for it on the other side. Who knew that a one-inch shell with shoes on would be our existential savior this summer? If you were poking around YouTube about a decade ago, you might have been witness to the viral introduction of Marcel the Shell with Shoes On. The tiny shell with insightful observations, and questions, about our everyday existence evolved into a trio of stop-motion animated shorts created by director Dean Fleischer-Camp and writer Jenny Slate (who also voices Marcel). It took more than a decade for the pair, along with co-writers Nick Paley and Elisabeth Holm, to come up with a broader story that would bring their bitty big thinker onto the big screen for a worthy continuation of his adventures. What they came up with connects loneliness, grief, hope and Lesley Stahl. No prior knowledge is necessary walking into Marcel the Shell with Shoes On, because the first act sets up the broader origin story for Marcel and their family, as well as recreates the heyday of their Internet notoriety into the film’s overall story. Taking place in a lovely Airbnb rental home in Los Angeles, Marcel is a resourceful little shell who lives in the vast home with his aging Nona Connie (Isabella Rossellini). Marcel spends most days creating Rube Goldberg contraptions, out of everything from standing mixers to turntables, to navigate challenges like climbing stairs or shaking kumquats from outside trees for food. The rest of their time is spent watching out for Connie as she gardens and makes friends with insects who assist in her garden-box tending. As Connie’s gotten more frail and forgetful in her old age, Marcel is the dutiful and gentle caretaker who cherishes her presence as his only existing family. Like the shorts, the canvas for Marcel the Shell with Shoes On is our real world, so Fleischer-Camp and cinematographer Bianca Cline are tasked with turning the mundane—a nice but regular old house—into a micro-playground filled with dappled light and ordinary obstacles meant to push Marcel’s ingenuity. Coffee tables become ice rinks, plant boxes become communal gardens and washing-room window sills become contemplative nooks for self-reflection. Their macro lens reframes everything we take for granted and makes them charming spaces for Marcel to navigate—and for our eyes to discover with fresh perspective. Of course, the cynics and the naysayers may accuse Marcel the Shell with Shoes On of being too twee or not cinematic enough. That’s ok. From the jump, a huge part of the film is allowing yourself to go to the tender places this movie intends to take you. This is an introspective journey that, if you let it, shatters the tiny boundaries of Marcel and Connie’s shells, connecting us all to the wealth of shared experiences, feelings and wants that take up essential space inside every one of us. That we can learn to embrace those things, with such vulnerability and bravery, from an anthropomorphic mollusk proves the true power of cinema.—Tara Bennett

9. Lightyear

lightyear-poster.jpg Disney+ Release date: June 17, 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

Only in theaters

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

10. Jurassic World: Dominion

dominion.jpg Disney+ Release date: June 10, 2022
Director: Colin Trevorrow
Starring: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Sam Neill, BD Wong, Omar Sy, Isabella Sermon, Justice Smith
Rating: PG-13

Only in theaters

If I had a kid who loved dinosaurs and who I hated, I would take them to see Jurassic World Dominion, because it makes dinosaurs so deeply uncool. Four years after the absurd “dinos are free and they’re everywhere” ending of J.A. Bayona’s Fallen Kingdom (which at least composed some frames that weren’t people standing around), the resurrected reptiles have lost their luster in the public eye. They’re mostly a morning news curiosity; they affect stock prices and fill segments about tragic deaths. Big Tech Bad Guy’s company, Biosyn Genetics, has been awarded sole control (by some never-mentioned, nonexistent global governing organization, I guess) over dino-research. Naturally, their greedy monopoly threatens the world, mostly through their creation of mega-locusts. The rest of the World regulars only factor into this Sharknado-like plot because of a separate, non-dinosaur McGuffin: Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon), a character just as dull as the rest of her companions despite being the first human clone, is kidnapped by a hilariously evil, leather-trenchcoated Biosyn lackey. That means her surrogate parents Owen Grady (Chris Pratt)—who?—and Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard)—seriously, who?—are off on a globe-trotting rescue mission. Dominion’s first act zips us around the world, visiting flapping loose ends and catching up with characters who, three movies in, it feels like we haven’t even met. While Trevorrow waits until the final chunk of his film’s excruciating 146 minutes to display pilfered, mutated visual elements of Steven Spielberg’s original—and yes, Trevorrow and Carmichael’s tortured subplots and Universal’s juicy paychecks conspire to reunite Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern), Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum)—Dominion first must generically riff on Raiders of the Lost Ark. In its zeitgeisty quest to unite the Jurassic generations, optimizing its IP-per-second usage, it becomes a product created by its own corporate villain. The Jurassic stories have always been Frankenstein riffs, where humans are punished for playing God. But Trevorrow brazenly engineers his own artless, profit-hungry, overstuffed monstrosity, his thoughtless hubris free to walk the earth as a misshapen, soulless slight against its source. —Jacob Oller

11. 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

12. 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

Watch on Disney+

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

13. 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

14. Sneakerella

sneakerella.jpg Release date: May 13, 2022
Director: Elizabeth Allen Rosenbaum
Stars: Chosen Jacobs, Lexi Underwood, Devyn Nekoda, Bryan Terrell Clark, Kolton Stewart, Hayward Leach, Robyn Alomar, Yvonne Senat Jones, Juan Chioran
Genre: Musical
Rating: PG

Watch on Disney+

The princess revolution continues with Disney+’s Sneakerella, which is a modern day gender-flip of the classic Cinderella story. The movie is also racially and culturally diverse, something that is thankfully becoming more and more the norm as Disney continues to course-correct decades of only featuring young, white princesses. El (Chosen Jacobs) is a teen living in Queens who dreams of being a sneaker designer. “He grew up believing that the perfect pair of kicks could make him fly,” his neighbor/soon-to-be Fairy Godfather Gustavo (Juan Chioran) narrates. El lives above his family’s shoe store, Laces, with his stepfather Trey (Bryan Terrell Clark) and his step-brothers Stacy (Hayward Leach) and Zelly (Kolton Stewart). Trey makes El work at the store while Stacy and Zelly, who, in one of the movie’s more fun jokes, dream of returning to New Jersey, get to practice Judo and attend future venture capitalist meetings. “Enough is enough. Sometimes you just gotta let your dreams go,” Trey tells El. While in line to buy the latest sneaker from former basketball-player-turned-sneaker-mogul Darius King (John Salley), El and his best friend Sami (Devyn Nekoda) meet Kira (Lexi Underwood). Little does El know that Kira is actually the daughter of—wait for it—Darius King. She’s a real-life sneaker princess. What are the odds? Jacobs is a delightful screen presence full of charisma and amazing moves. Underwood, who can also currently be seen as Malia Obama in Showtime’s The First Lady, is equally delightful. Kira is a young woman figuring out where she fits in. The storyline itself, though, is thin as it tries to retrofit the Cinderella fairytale into this modern version. There are plot points that don’t make a lot of sense. But you’re coming for the singing and the phenomenal dancing. As a tween musical full of catchy songs, the shoe fits. —Amy Amatangelo

15. Marmaduke

marmaduke.jpg Release date: May 6, 2022
Director: Mark A.Z. Dippé; Youngki Lee, Phil Nibbelink, Matt Philip Whelan (co-directors)
Stars: Pete Davidson, J.K. Simmons, David Koechner, Brain Hull
Genre: Comedy, Adventure
Rating: PG

Watch on Netflix

In 1954, cartoonist Brad Anderson made comic strip history by sketching out an anarchic, dopey Great Dane, whom he named Marmaduke. In the decades since, people loved Marmaduke for all of the obvious reasons: His slapstick adventures are effortlessly funny, his I-just-want-to-do-good ethos is naturally endearing and his inherent silliness embodies a kind of freedom to which we all aspire. But more than that, people love Marmaduke because his misgivings are reliable—predictable, even. And that’s exactly why adapting this character into a film will always be a complicated venture. How, exactly, do you turn that repetition into something that’s consistently engaging while still staying true to its delightful, humdrum essence? This is the challenge facing director Mark A.Z. Dippé as he resuscitates the mischievous pooch a decade after a famous cinematic flop. Dippé’s computer-animated film stars Pete Davidson as Marmaduke, the well-intentioned Great Dane who just can’t seem to get it right! Within the first few minutes, he finds himself committing a healthy number of faux pas, not least of which is cannonballing into a swimming pool to escape a bee, flooding his neighborhood, and subsequently wrecking his brother’s birthday party. What filmmakers seem to have overlooked over the past couple decades is that a story like Marmaduke begs for a new perspective; audiences are craving more nuance than sweet simple comforts. And while Dippé’s Marmaduke is a fun enough viewing experience, it doesn’t bring anything new to the table. Why can’t we just leave Marmaduke in the dog house for a little while? —Aurora Amidon