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 20 of the biggest new kids movies from the last few months:

1. The Amazing Maurice

Release Date: February 3, 2023
Director: Toby Genkel
Starring: Hugh Laurie, Emilia Clarke, Himesh Patel, Gemma Arterton
Genre: Animation, Adventure
Rating: PG

Only in theaters

Adapting Terry Pratchett’s Carnegie-winning Discworld book, The Amazing Maurice is a successfully wry, odd, utterly British spin on the Shrek-like self-aware fairy tale. Stuffed with motormouths and throwaway gags, the chunky animation can be a little off-putting, but its momentary ugliness feeds into its delightfully dark villains, its underdog heroes and the strange story tying them all together. This isn’t pristine, groundbreaking, photoreal CG, but cartoonishness that suits its oddballs—and might even give a kid a stray nightmare or two. As a former kid with a lot of affection for the animated movies that used to freak me out, that’s a compliment. Turning the Pied Piper story on its head, and then flipping it around again so that it’s right-side up but utterly disoriented, The Amazing Maurice asks plenty of its young audience. They’d better be able to keep up with Malicia’s (Emilia Clarke) rapid sledgehammer blows smashing through the fourth wall, because the narrator finds herself wrapped up in her own story; they’d also better be able to parse the nested myths explaining how some of the tale’s animals came to grasp such intelligence. But, because the film has faith in its young viewers, it’s completely achievable. While it cuts some of Pratchett’s most incisive and dark components (like the intelligent rats navigating relationships with regular rats) in favor of cinematic comprehension, it’s still a faithful enough translation to win fans over—and introduce kids to a welcoming literary world that takes the piss out of everything around it. —Jacob Oller

2. Dog Gone

Netflix Release Date: January 13, 2023
Director: Stephen Herek
Stars: Rob Lowe, Johnny Berchtold, Kimberly Williams-Paisley, Nick Peine
Genre: Drama
Rating: R

Watch on Netflix

Almost a decade ago, a story captivated the nation. This story follows a dog named Gonker, who went missing on the Appalachian Trail, and his loyal owner, who wouldn’t stop until the two were reunited. The tale of the Little Labrador That Could is endlessly suspenseful and surprising; but above all, it’s inspiring as hell. If you’re looking for an adaptation of this story that latches onto this final point and absolutely nothing else, Dog Gone is the film for you. Netflix’s newest feel-good endeavor centers around Fielding Marshall (Johnny Berchtold), a college student who rescues a yellow lab pup/bonafide goodboy from a shelter in an effort to get over his recent ex dating a ripped frisbee player. But Fielding and Gonker can’t stay in their college campus dream life forever, and eventually it’s time to venture back into reality: Fielding’s parents’ multi-million dollar mansion. While there, Gonker runs off; but never fear! Fielding and his stern (but eventually proud and even touchy-feely!) dad John (Rob Lowe), will stop at nothing to get that doggone dog back from being gone! As you might have gathered by now, Dog Gone is shamelessly sickly-sweet. This exhaustively sanitized, overly saccharine take on the hero’s journey is certainly nothing new, but it remains rather uninteresting. But, despite its over-commitment to the family-friendly angle, Dog Gone is fun enough. It’s hard not to fall in love with a pooch who flips donuts in the air and catches them, so the main quest is bound to pull on your heartstrings—even just a little. These inklings of genuine heart make it that much more disappointing that Dog Gone is so steadfast on sanitizing Gonker’s real story. —Aurora Amidon

3. Puss in Boots: The Last Wish

Release Date: December 21, 2022
Director: Joel Crawford
Stars: Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Harvey Guillén, Florence Pugh, Olivia Colman, Ray Winstone, Samson Kayo, John Mulaney, Wagner Moura, Da’Vine Joy
Genre: Animation, Adventure
Rating: PG

Only in theaters

After an 11-year cat nap, our favorite orange outlaw is back for another flamenco adventure. Told with a bold and contemporary visual style, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish celebrates the magic of classic folklore with the reverential irreverence we’ve come to love about this storybookland. What could have easily been a hairball of half-digested nostalgia is transformed into a mature and cat-ivating story that positively purrs. When we last left our fearless feline, Puss (Antonio Banderas) was still running across terracotta rooftops. But now it seems all nine of his lives have finally caught up with him. Down to his last life and suddenly aware of his mortality, his only hope of getting his lives back is to wish upon the magic star lodged in the heart of The Dark Forest. His journey crosses paths with his old flame, Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek), and Puss even gets his own chatty sidekick/service animal (Harvey Guillén), just like his old pal Shrek. To find the magic star and make a wish, they’ll need to conquer new foes: Goldi (Florence Pugh), The Three Bears (Olivia Colman, Ray Winstone, Samson Kayo) and Little Jack Horner (John Mulaney). Together they’ll prove there’s no more wondrous magic than Team Friendship. Puss in Boots: The Last Wish excels where The Swampverse has always succeeded: Indexing classic folklore. Like Jack Horner’s collection of magic artifacts being pulled from a bottomless bag, Fisher and Swerdlow provide an unending stream of references to stories, tales, songs and lullabies that we don’t share anymore. No other films today celebrate Mother Goose lullabies, idioms, Dancehall music and literary fairy tales the same way The Last Wish does, let alone takes the time to remind us of the difference between these cultural genres. —B.L. Panther

4. Avatar: The Way of Water

Release Date: December 16, 2022
Director: James Cameron
Stars: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang, Jamie Flatters, Britain Dalton, Trinity Bliss, Kate Winslet, Cliff Curtis, Edie Falco, Jack Champion, Jemaine Clement, Joel David Moore, Brendan Cowell, CCH Pounder
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 192 minutes

Only in theaters

Avatar: The Way of Water is a promise—like the titular Way as described by a beatific, finned Na’vi fish-people princess, the film connects all things: the past and the future; cinema as a generational ideal and one film’s world-uniting box office reality; James Cameron’s megalomania and his justification for Being Like That; one audience member and another audience member on the other side of the world; one archetypal cliché and another archetypal cliché; dreams and waking life. Avatar’s sequel can be nothing less than a delivery on everything Cameron has said, hyperbolic or not, he would deliver. What’s less clear is exactly what Cameron’s intending to deliver. The Way of Water’s story is a bare bones lesson in appealing to as many worldwide markets as possible, the continuation of the adventures of Bostonian Jake Sully (Sam Worthington, who’s spent the past decade trying not to sound like an outback chimney sweep) as he raises a Na’vi family with like-warrior-minded Neytiri (Zoe Saldaña, screaming from inside her golden prison) and realizes that Earthlings aren’t going to stop colonizing Pandora just because they had their shit kicked in a lifetime ago. The Way of Water’s true achievement is that it looks like nothing else but the first Avatar, unparalleled in detail and scale, a devouring enterprise all to itself. Watching The Way of Water can at times feel astonishing, as if the brain gapes at the sheer amount of physical data present in every frame, incapable of consuming it, but longing to keep up. We believe that this film will redefine box office success because Cameron presents it—making the absolute most of high frame rates, 3-D, and IMAX, normalizing their use, acclimating our brains in ways Ang Lee could only wish—as the next evolutionary step in modern blockbuster filmmaking. This is immersion for its own sake, moviegoing as experience vaunted to the next level, breathtaking in its completely unironic scope. After so many hours in Pandora, untroubled by complicated plot or esoteric myths, caring for this world comes easy. As do the tears. The body reacts as the brain flails. Avatar has consumed James Cameron; it is his everything now, the vehicle for every story he wants to tell, and every story anyone may want to tell—the all-consuming world he’s created is such a lushly resourced aesthetic wonder that anything can be mapped onto its ever-expanding ecosystems. Pandora is a toolbox and ready-made symbol. No film will ever be this beautiful in my lifetime, at least until the next Avatar.—Dom Sinacola

5. Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical

Release Date: December 9, 2022
Director: Matthew Warchus
Stars: Alisha Weir, Stephen Graham, Andrea Riseborough, Lashana Lynch, Sindhu Vee, Emma Thompson
Genre: Musical
Rating: PG

Watch on Netflix

Many of Roald Dahl’s fantastical stories include adults being exceptionally malicious to children, and that’s certainly the case in Matilda the Musical. Matilda Wormwood’s (Alisha Weir) parents never wanted her, are casually cruel and neglect her to the point they forget to send her to school. Once at school, called Crunchem Hall where a statue with the words “No Sniveling” greets students and headmistress Miss Trunchbull (Emma Thompson) delights in torturing children. The school motto is “Children are Maggots.” Nice, right? Orphaned children singing about their troubles while unifying their peers is a musical staple (see: Annie). But Matilda is a decidedly stranger, darker show. Matilda has a vivid imagination and magical powers. When she’s not standing up to Miss Trunchbull or dealing with her garish parents, she tells extraordinary, disturbing stories about an Escapologist (Carl Spencer) and an Acrobat (Lauren Alexandra) to kind traveling librarian Mrs. Phelps (Sindhu Vee). But none of that really matters, because Matilda the Musical, an adaptation of the Tony and Olivier award-winning musical, is so good. Just give yourself over the utter weirdness. Weir is fantastic, bringing a plucky spunk and some fantastic vocals to the lead, while Thompson leaves all (and I do mean all) vanity behind as the horrific Trunchbull. Lashana Lynch is goodness personified as Matilda’s loving teacher Miss Honey; Stephen Graham and Andrea Riseborough are tawdry comic relief as Matilda’s awful parents. And wow, those musical numbers. With original music and lyrics by Tim Minchin, the songs and the accompanying choreography, by Ellen Kane, are full of energy and deliciously executed dance moves. The cast of children, many of whom in their film debut, are terrific. And the message of Matilda the Musical is a good one. Children should be listened to. They know and understand more than you think, and today’s children are tomorrow’s adults. Even though they’re little, they can do a lot. Matilda the Musical is a movie for the entire family that will leave you singing and dancing. A movie musical this good is a miracle—you can tell Matilda’s parents I said so. —Amy Amatangelo

6. Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio

Release Date: December 9, 2022
Director: Guillermo del Toro, Mark Gustafson
Stars: Ewan McGregor, David Bradley, Gregory Mann, Ron Perlman, Finn Wolfhard, Christoph Waltz, Tilda Swinton, Cate Blanchett
Rating: PG
Runtime: 114 minutes

Watch on Netflix

Guillermo del Toro has never shied away from infusing the harsh realities of life and death into the journeys of his young protagonists. His fascination with the intersections of childhood innocence and macabre whimsy are what make him the ideal co-director of Netflix’s newest Pinocchio adaptation, a work that marvelously marries the filmmaker’s flair for dark fantasy with the equally strange fairy tale elements of Carlo Collodi’s 1883 The Adventures of Pinocchio. Like all successful marriages, Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio brings out the very best of both parties. The stop-motion musical is an artistic triumph that colors Collodi’s cherished storybook characters with humanity and depth to craft a mature tale about rebellion, mortality and the love between a parent and child. This rendition marks the 22nd film adaptation of the Italian novel, and while it remains true to the grisly nature of Collodi’s original stories, it boldly departs from its dated moral lessons. In The Adventures of Pinocchio (and notable renditions thereafter), Pinnochio’s many escapades are structured as cause-and-effect narratives that serve to caution children against defiant behavior. In Disney’s 1940 animated feature, an evening of fun and relaxation on “Pleasure Island’’ nearly turns the wooden boy into a salt-mining donkey. In the original serial La Storia di un Burattino, delinquent behavior leads him to a gruesome death. These values of compliance and servility are reversed by del Toro’s fascist setting. In his Pinocchio, disobedience is a virtue—not a crime.
These moral examinations are given a sense of urgency in death—a theme that informs so much of the film’s mind and soul. Where previous adaptations are preoccupied with life—with the puppet’s extraordinary consciousness and the hope that he may someday become a “real boy”—del Toro’s Pinocchio is interested in what our mortality can teach us about being human. In the film, death is never too far away from the protagonist or his loved ones. Death touches Carlo, then remains close to Pinocchio throughout his epic journey. The beauty of del Toro’s Pinocchio is that death isn’t treated with the usual dread and cynicism we typically see in the Western world. Here, death is mysterious, ethereal, soaked in gorgeous blue light. Death is not something to be feared, but respected and accepted when the time comes, because the notion that we will someday—maybe unexpectedly—leave this earth is what makes our time here so beautiful. I don’t typically advise listening to crickets, but believe Sebastian J., because the story of Pinocchio has never been told quite like this.—Kathy Michelle Chacón

7. Night at the Museum: Kahmunrah Rises Again

Disney+ Release Date: December 9, 2022
Director: Matt Danner
Stars: Joshua Bassett, Jamie Demetriou, Joseph Kamal, Thomas Lennon, Zachary Levi, Akmal Saleh
Genre: Animation, Adventure
Rating: PG

Watch on Disney+

The Night at the Museum franchise gets its first animated entry, a follow-up to 2014’s Secret of the Tomb. Joshua Bassett is the third actor to portray Nick Daley, the son of Ben Stiller’s security guard Larry Daley (this time voiced by Zachary Levi). Nick is now a high-schooler working the night shift as his summer job. It’s up to him—and pals like Teddy Roosevelt (Thomas Lennon), Sacagewea (Kieran Sequoia) and the dinosaur skeleton Rexy—to stop the ancient Egyptian Kamunrah from freeing an entire army of the dead.

8. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules

Disney+ Release Date: December 2, 2022
Director: Luke Cormican
Stars: Brady Noon, Hunter Dillon, Ethan William Childress, Chris Diamantopoulos, Erica Cerra
Genre: Animation, Comedy
Rating: PG

Watch on Disney+

It’s hard to believe, but this is the sixth film adapted from Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid children’s books—and the second adaptation of Rodrick Rules after a 2011 live-action version. The latest serves as a follow-up to 2021’s first animated film in the series with most of the voice actors returning. Ed Asner voiced Grandpa Heffley in one of his final performances before his death in 2021. The “rules” in Rodrick Rules pertain to Gregg’s older brother Rodrick’s tricks for accomplishing things with minimal effort.

9. Strange World

Release Date: November 23, 2022
Director: Don Hall
Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Dennis Quaid, Jaboukie Young-White, Gabrielle Union, Lucy Liu
Genre: Animation, Adventure

Watch on Disney+

Strange World, Disney’s sole original animated feature of 2022, combines facets of Pixar’s pair of the year’s releases to a lesser effect. Looking both backwards to Lightyear’s loving homage to pulp fiction and forwards to Turning Red’s progressive and wholesome examination of specific family dynamics, Strange World is late to its own company’s trends. It wears its more talented siblings’ emotional honesty and retro homages like hand-me-downs. Like many of the flashy adventure stories it mimics, Strange World can be arresting—especially with its inventive setting and bulbous creatures—and its attempts at deconstructing the sweaty, macho-man ethos hawked by its inspiration are admirable. But with muddled themes and slight characters, remnants of the old dime magazines coordinate to bring Strange World down on the wrong side of familiar. Strange World’s embrace and rejection of both tradition and modernity can be confounding, despite the undeniable beauty it finds along the way. Like the wild, untamed, interconnected world lying underneath humanity’s Avalonia, there’s a complexity worth tangling with lurking beneath Strange World’s tired family conflict. But its desire to have its world and strange it too is irreconcilable with its top priority: Be a Disney movie. Sadly, the resulting confusion, of commentary stifled by corporate need and tradition, isn’t that strange at all. —Jacob Oller

10. Disenchanted

Release Date: November 18, 2022
Director: Adam Shankman
Starring: Amy Adams, Patrick Dempsey, James Marsden, Idina Menzel, Gabriella Baldacchino, Maya Rudolph, Yvette Nicole Brown, Jayma Mays, Oscar Nunez, Griffin
Genre: Musical comedy
Rating: PG

Watch on Disney+

Unlike the first act of Enchanted, the sequel Disenchanted is light on the satire of fairy tale tropes, and heavy on the fairy tale rules and aesthetics. There’s still plenty of charm to go around, and it’s ultimately a fun experience, but it undeniably avoids the original movie’s strongest aspects in favor of sincerity. Fifteen years after the events of Enchanted, in which Giselle left behind the magical land of Andalasia for a life in New York with Robert, their family has a new baby, Sofia, in addition to Robert’s now-teenage daughter Morgan (Gabriella Baldacchino). The family’s New York condo suddenly feels too small to contain their growing needs. Giselle convinces Robert to move to the quaint suburb of Monroeville, where everyone struggles to adjust to their new lives. Giselle clashes with the town’s queen bee Malvina (Maya Rudolph), while Morgan increasingly feels like she has no place in her family. Giselle’s Andalasian ex-beau Edward (James Marsden) and Nancy (Idina Menzel), Edward’s queen and Robert’s ex, come to visit Giselle and Robert’s new home bearing a gift for Sofia: A magic wand that will grant her every wish. After an argument with Morgan, Giselle and her chipmunk pal Pip (voiced by Griffin Newman) use the wand to try and bring some fairy tale magic to Monroeville, unwittingly causing catastrophic consequences for their world and Andalasia that must be undone before the clock strikes midnight. There’s a telltale corporate scent here, as if Disenchanted was created by studio executives who didn’t understand what made the original movie a winning formula. If you’re willing to overlook that and enjoy a goofy bit of treacle, you’ll still have a nice time. Just don’t expect brilliance. —Abby Olcese.

11. Slumberland

Release Date: November 18, 2022
Director: Francis Lawrence
Starring: Jason Momoa, Marlow Barkley, Chris O’Dowd, Kyle Chandler, Weruche Opia, India De Beaufort, Humberly González
Genre: Family, Fantasy, Adventure
Rating: PG

Watch on Netflix

Declaring what our dreams look like, if such a sweeping declaration can be made, is asking for trouble, but I can certainly put forth what I hope our dreams don’t look like: I hope they don’t look a thing like Slumberland. Director Francis Lawrence deadens and dulls Winsor McCay’s classic comic Nemo in Slumberland, updating McCay’s bright and groundbreaking early 20th century absurdity to modern VFX’s best-practice aesthetic—namely, “dark, and in a big room.” Slumberland’s loose adaptation is Disneyfied in plot and theme, and self-smothering of a feeble imagination that barely outpaces its images. Slumberland’s Nemo (Marlow Barkley) lives an idyllic life running a lighthouse with her hot, bearded and cableknit widower dad Kyle Chandler. In the same kind of endearing yet inevitably tragic opening that comes pre-packaged into every children’s movie, Chandler’s perfect parental character is not long for this world. When he dies and Nemo is thrust into the care of her uptight urbanite uncle Philip (Chris O’Dowd), she finds herself escaping time and time again into the dream world, where she can briefly pursue her father alongside a dream-being who was the co-star of many of her father’s bedtime stories. This dream-being, Flip (Jason Momoa), is supposed to be the source of all the film’s energy. Momoa, who looks like Rob Zombie in a Willy Wonka costume, all but has this assignment written on his forehead. He’s growly and eccentric, with plenty of useless wibbly-wobbly Jack Sparrow tics, and has a little trouble talking through his Beauty and the Beast fangs. While Barkley is clearly out of her depth as our wide-eyed heroine, Momoa is equally ill-equipped to bring the Jack Black-like pop his karate moves, heel clicks and heroic poses try to generate. —Jacob Oller

12. 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

Watch on Disney+

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

13. 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

14. One Piece Film: Red

Release Date: November 4, 2022
Director: Gor? Taniguchi
Stars: Mayumi Tanaka, Shuichi Ikeda, Kaori Nazuka, Kazuya Nakai, Akemi Okamura
Genre: Anime, Action
Rating: PG-13

Only in theaters

With its latest movie One Piece Film: Red in theaters, it might seem like a fine time to become acquainted with what Oda has been building for over 25 years. The story of Monkey D Luffy and his misfit Straw Hat Crew’s attempts to find the fabled One Piece treasure blends magnificent emotional poignancy with escalating adventures in a way that’s honestly awe-inspiring. One might expect this kind of story to become exhaustingly cyclical, as many of its ilk have: Heroes get stronger, while new, more powerful villains appear in revolving door fashion. But One Piece has, for the most part, managed to stay vibrant, and the sense of discovery that leads people to first engage with the series remains just as potent as it did in 1997. —Daniel Dockery

15. 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.

16. 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.

17. 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

18. 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

19. 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

20. 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