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. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

Release Date: November 11, 2022
Director: Ryan Coogler
Stars: Letitia Wright, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Winston Duke, Florence Kasumba, Dominique Thorne, Michaela Coel, Tenoch Huerta, Martin Freeman, Angela Bassett
Rating: PG-13

Only in theaters

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever boasts the same director in Ryan Coogler (and the same writing team of Coogler and Joe Robert Cole), who have again created a story whose conflicts and character arcs go deeper than the average MCU fare. Of equal importance, Wakanda Forever again features the Oscar-winning talents of Hannah Beachler (production design) and Ruth E. Carter (costume design). Wakanda remains a vividly realized Afrofuturist cityscape (even in mourning), and the MCU’s newest kingdom, Talokan, though markedly less flashy than James Wan’s Atlantis in Aquaman, feels as real and wondrous as a fictitious Aztec/Mayan underwater realm should. The cast is mostly the same, with Michael B. Jordan’s scene-stealing antagonist Erik Killmonger replaced by Tenoch Huerta’s similarly compelling and cleverly reimagined anti-hero Namor (who is much more integral to Marvel Comics—and likely the MCU—than Killmonger). But how keen the loss contained in that word—“mostly.” Chadwick Boseman’s portrayal of T’Challa was a magical piece of casting alchemy on par with Chris Evans’ Steve Rogers. Coogler confronts the loss directly in Wakanda Forever in a beautiful opening tribute to both actor and character. T’Challa’s funeral is a reminder of just how strong the cast is overall, providing Angela Bassett, Letitia Wright and Danai Gurira some grief-themed scene-chewing of their own. Where Thor: Love and Thunder felt like a lighter, sloppier version of its predecessor, Wakanda Forever feels like a well-considered, necessary next step for a franchise rocked by loss. It’s a tad overstuffed—an entire sub-plot involving Everett Ross (Martin Freeman) feels more like Feige fiat to ensure certain characters and developments are sufficiently presaged—but that only serves as a reminder of the fine line between “laying groundwork” and overpacking. Despite the daunting challenge faced by Coogler and his team, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever feels like the surest step taken in the MCU since Thanos was reduced to ash. It’s both an impressive achievement and a promising development, especially when considers the strong comic book connections between Namor, mutants (he is one), and a certain fantastic foursome on the MCU horizon.—Michael Burgin

2. My Father’s Dragon

Release Date: November 11, 2022
Director: Nora Twomey
Stars: Jacob Tremblay, Gaten Matarazzo, Golshifteh Farahani, Dianne Wiest, Rita Moreno
Genre: Animation, Fantasy
Rating: PG-13

Watch on Netflix

My Father’s Dragon, the latest film from Ireland’s Cartoon Saloon, is directed by studio co-founder Nora Twomey and based on the beloved children’s book of the same name created by Ruth Stiles Gannett. This adaptation brings to life, in gorgeous 2D animation, a kaleidoscope of surreal visuals and strange creatures encountered by a little boy and his dragon friend. Theirs is an intimate story about processing fear, especially speaking to those children wrestling with the burdens of having to emotionally navigate real-world stresses that invade their lives too soon. Like Gannett’s book, My Father’s Dragon is also narrated (sparsely) by the unseen grown child (Mary Kay Place) of the story’s protagonist, Elmer Elevator (Jacob Tremblay). She sets up an adventure Elmer had in his childhood that not only utilized his talent for finding things, but was also life-changing, involving a talking cat (Whoopi Goldberg) and a dragon (Gaten Matarazzo). Twomey and her artists have done the magic of staying within the illustration aesthetic of their studio’s signature approach, while expanding that into a more surrealistic and fanciful approach that feels individual and unique. It will especially appeal to the sensitive kids (and adults) in your life, and it most definitely meets the high standards Cartoon Saloon continues to make in the medium. —Tara Bennett

3. Wendell & Wild

Release Date: October 28, 2022
Director: Henry Selick
Starring: Jordan Peele, Keegan-Michael Key, Angela Bassett, Lyric Ross, Ving Rhames
Genre: Animation, Comedy
Rating: PG-13

Watch on Netflix

Early on, Wendell & Wild feels like it might not be for kids so much as inebriated adults. Over the course of its runtime, that is revealed to be a reductive appraisal—it’s a spooky coming-of-age comedy made of sad and dramatic moments which demonstrate the importance of community resistance to corporate control of the government. The plot has enough going on that it could have been a TV series or a two-parter, but for whatever its flaws or limitations, it flows coherently for 106 minutes to a satisfactory conclusion. All the while, it’s a marvel of artistry and artisanship, with a soundtrack full of Black-fronted rock bands to boot. Kat (Lyric Ross), a young green-haired Black girl, loses her parents—pillars of their community—in a car accident and is roughed up over the years by the juvenile justice system as the film visually summarizes through shadow-puppet illustrations of memories. It’s a nice added layer, artistically and didactically. A grant-funded reintegration program brings Kat back to her now largely-deserted hometown, Rust Bank, and its eponymous private Catholic school. There, Kat discovers her supernatural connection to the underworld through Wendell (Keegan-Michael Key) and Wild (Jordan Peele). Wendell & Wild reminded me of Beetlejuice and Nightmare Before Christmas, but it isn’t cribbing from what has come before. It’s building on it, and kids and parents everywhere are lucky to have this film. Selick hasn’t directed a lot of movies, but his films have a lasting impact, etching themselves in the memories of their audiences for decades. —Kevin Fox, Jr.

4. Enola Holmes 2

Release Date: October 27, 2022
Director: Harry Bradbeer
Stars: Millie Bobby Brown, Henry Cavill, David Thewlis, Louis Partridge, Helena Bonham Carter, Susie Wokoma, Adeel Akhtar, Sharon Duncan-Brewster
Genre: Thriller, Adventure
Rating: PG-13

Watch on Netflix

Millie Bobby Brown returns as the kid sister of Sherlock Holmes in this sequel to 2020’s Netflix original. This time, she’s a full-fledged private detective trying to solve the mystery of a missing girl.

5. The School of Good and Evil

Netflix Release Date: October 19, 2022
Director: Paul Feig
Stars: Sofia Wylie, Sophia Anne Caruso, Kit Young, Kerry Washington, Charlize Theron
Genre: Teen Fantasy
Rating: PG-13

Watch on Netflix

Warner Bros. has Harry Potter. Lionsgate has The Hunger Games. Now, Netflix (regrettably) has The School for Good and Evil. Though the streamer has seen enormous success in adapting Young Adult fiction in recent years, its latest venture into the teen fantasy market is an agonizing two-and-a-half-hour experience drawn out by lackluster VFX and familiar narrative elements. Based on the bestselling children’s book series by Soman Chainani, The School for Good and Evil tells the story of two unlikely companions: Sophie (Sophia Anne Caruso) and Agatha (Sofia Wylie). When the duo find themselves clutched between the claws of a giant bird-like creature, they are transported from their quiet town of Gavaldon to the enchanted School for Good and Evil, an institution that has educated legendary storybook characters for ages. Trouble ensues when Sophie is dropped off at the School for Evil and Agatha at the School for Good, a decision the girls are certain is a mistake. As the film progresses, and Sophie becomes influenced by an evil force, the best friends are placed on opposite sides of a magical battle. The School for Good and Evil is juvenile, over-the-top and campy in all the worst ways. It’s too busy trying to combine TikTok fashion with Top 40 music and popular children’s fantasy films to create any visual, musical or narrative distinction for itself. Its final scene teases a sequel, but it’s difficult to imagine The School for Good and Evil becoming even half as bewitching or influential as the YA series it’s trying so hard to be. —Kathy Michelle Chacón

5. Lyle, Lyle Crocodile

Release Date: October 7, 2022
Directors: Will Speck, Josh Gordon
Starring: Shawn Mendes, Javier Bardem, Constance Wu, Winslow Fegley, Scoot McNairy, Brett Gelman
Rating: PG

Only in theaters

If you’re going to steal, steal from the best. Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile desperately wants to be the American incarnation of Paul King’s Paddington movies, considered by many fans of family-friendly films to be the cream of the contemporary crop. Lyle wants this so badly that it turns most of the elements of King’s films into a checklist: Adorable animal protagonist, family with a creative mom and stuffy-but-sweet dad, a hateful neighbor, wrongful imprisonment. It even mimics the warm bohemian colors and vintage clutter of King’s films. Some of the charm is there, too. However, in their quest to follow Paddington’s lead, directors Josh Gordon and Will Speck miss the secret sauce of King’s movies: Not only are they sweet and touching, they’re also great examples of economical storytelling. Lyle, by contrast, skips substance for flash and replaces actual communication and growth with musical numbers that don’t fill that void. At the beginning of the film, Lyle—a singing crocodile whose dulcet tones are voiced by Shawn Mendes—is discovered in the back of a pet shop by struggling performer Hector P. Valenti (Javier Bardem). Hector takes Lyle home in the hopes of creating a double-act. Lyle can only verbally communicate through song, but his stage fright prevents the act from taking off. Hector goes on the road to make some quick cash, abandoning Lyle. Eighteen months later, the Primm family—teacher Mr. Primm (Scoot McNairy), cookbook author Mrs. Primm (Constance Wu) and their nervous pre-teen son Josh (Winslow Fegley) move into Hector’s old house. The Primms inherit both Lyle, whom Josh immediately takes to, and persnickety downstairs neighbor Mr. Grumps (Brett Gelman). Lyle eventually wins the whole Primm family over, but his future with them gets complicated when Hector comes back into their lives. Lyle is lovingly animated and expressive, making him easy to like. However, the character is stymied by his ability to sing, but not talk. Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile knows what kind of movie it wants to be, but unfortunately the folks behind the camera don’t know how to make that happen. In true American fashion, Gordon, Speck and screenwriter Will Davies get caught up in unnecessary gimmickry that nearly undermines the movie’s natural charm. —Abby Olcese

6. Hocus Pocus 2

Release Date: September 30, 2022
Director: Anne Fletcher
Stars: Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kathy Najimy, Sam Richardson, Doug Jones, Whitney Peak, Belissa Escobedo
Rating: PG

Watch on Disney+

The good news is if you liked Hocus Pocus, you will definitely like Hocus Pocus 2...because it’s basically the exact same movie except with cell phones, better special effects and a cameo from Hannah Waddingham. Imitation remains the sincerest form of flattery. The bad news is…it’s the exact same movie. Hocus Pocus 2 gets a jolt of energy when the Sanderson sisters finally arrive about a half-hour into the film. Midler, Parker and Najimy are clearly having so much fun it’s hard to not go along with their hijinks a little bit. All the beats of the first movie are there, including a big Halloween party where the sisters perform. “I bet you’re looking for the stage,” one resident asks. “Always,” replies Winifred. Parker is hilarious as the daft younger sister. “I delighted in luring,” she laments. “‘Twas my only job.” (And suffice to say by default, this is a much better sequel than Parker’s And Just Like That…) —Amy Amatangelo

7. The Munsters

Release Date: September 27, 2022
Director: Rob Zombie
Stars: Jeff Daniel Phillips, Sheri Moon Zombie, Daniel Roebuck
Genre: Comedy
Rating: PG

Watch on Netflix

Rob Zombie’s newest feature is his Netflix adaptation of the The Munsters, a family-friendly American sitcom from the 1960s about the goofy, supernatural Transylvanian clan who struggle to fit in among the suburbia of their neighborhood on Mockingbird Lane. If you’re well-acquainted with Zombie, it’s as if his career has been leading up to this. The Munsters has been a direct source of inspiration for Zombie since childhood. The narrative is an origin story, Zombie’s vision from the start, not assuming the audience is entirely caught up on the series. It follows the hijinks-laden creation of Herman Munster by mad scientist Dr. Henry Augustus Wolfgang (Richard Brake), whose doltish assistant Floop (Jorge Garcia) accidentally implants the brain of a flop comedian instead of a genius. Herman’s inception comes at just the right time, as poor Lily is desperate for love but perpetually disappointed by the Transylvanian dating scene. Goofy Herman is Lily’s dream man, and the two meet, fall in love and get married. This is much to the chagrin of The Count (Grandpa Munster, pre-Grandpa), who disapproves of the dimwitted Herman. It’s Herman’s density that puts the family in financial peril, as a scheme concocted by The Count’s vengeful ex-wife, Zoya (Catherine Schell)—in alliance with The Count’s estranged, werewolf son, Lester (Tomas Boykin)—ends up forcing the Munsters to start a new life in sunny California. Zombie’s Munsters film turns out to be the only kind that he could have directed: An extremely earnest, incredibly cheesy adaptation that stays true to the show while being suitably inventive. He creates an off-beat origin story for the Munster family that is neither superfluous nor redundant and always utterly gorgeous, putting the consistently dull, muted color palettes of modern films (chiefly and ironically, Netflix fare) to shame. —Brianna Zigler

8. Goodbye, Don Glees!

Release Date: September 14, 2022
Director: Atsuko Ishizuka
Stars: Natsuki Hanae, Yuki Kaji, Ayumu Murase, Kana Hanazawa, Rino Sashihara, Atsushi Tamura
Rating: PG

Only in theaters

The gnats are swarming, the fireworks are glowing, and it’s time to get the boys together for one last summer hurrah. A quintessential “last teen summer” story, the premise of Goodbye, Don Glees!, writer/director Atsuko Ishizuka’s first original feature, is a bit trite at first blush. But like the nectar of succulent flowers in full bloom, there is much to savor. Teens Roma (Natsuki Hanae; Adam McArthur) and Toto (Yuki Kaji; Nick Wolfhard) are childhood friends united as outcasts in their rural mountainside village. Now high schoolers, the pair have begun to drift apart. With a sense of obligation masked as desire, Toto left their hometown to attend a high school in the city while Roma remained to help his family’s farm. Returning briefly for a summertime festival, Toto’s newfound sense of maturity and Roma’s unchanged wonder come to an impasse. The duo, under the self-proclaimed banner of the “Don Glees,” is further altered by the presence of a new member: Drop. Drop (Ayumu Murase; Jonathan Leon) is the smallest boy of the group and the least restrained, a foil to the person Toto imagines himself becoming, and one who pushes Roma further from what Toto thinks he needs from his friend. But when the trio is blamed for a forest fire, they have to adventure into the wilderness that will, of course, push them apart before pulling them back together. From its technically impressive, sweeping 3-D landscapes to powerful orchestral themes, Goodbye, Don Glees! looks like an anime that could be narrated by David Attenborough. Ishizuka and art director Ayana Okamoto, one of many returning A Place Further than the Universe staff, recapture the series’ characteristic lighting and lensing that, coupled with changing color gradients, invoke the use of film. That sentiment is further carried by A Place Further than the Universe composer Yoshiaki Fujisawa’s soundtrack, which is paired with energizing alt-rock themes from YAMO that really brings home all the emotions of a YA indie flick. With recurring themes and imagery already emerging after just a few projects, Don Glees! makes me want to see more of Ishizuka’s voice come through as her team at Madhouse further refines their production—and as Ishizuka works with more collaborators in future endeavors. With Goodbye, Don Glees!, she’s readily assumed the spotlight as a leader of animation. In capturing the ephemeral magic of childhood wonder and the natural world, and further depicting how our relationships—to each other and the land—change into adulthood, Goodbye, Don Glees! is a perfect way to ring in the changing of the seasons. —Autumn Wright

9. Pinocchio

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

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

10. Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero

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

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

11. Luck

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

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

12. DC League of Super-Pets

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

Watch on HBO Max

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.

13. 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

Watch on Disney+

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

14. The Sea Beast

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

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

15. Minions: The Rise of Gru

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