New Movies on Disney+ – Paste – Paste Magazine

Disney+ is home to all of the entertainment giant’s studios and franchises, meaning its latest releases are scattered among a variety of properties. But we’re looking solely at movies here, so no Boba Fett series and no short films like Pixar’s 22 vs. Earth or Nona. What we do have are the latest feature-length films from Marvel, Pixar, National Geographic and even 20th Century Studios (had you forgotten Disney scooped them up, as well?). There’s live-action with the emphasis on action. There’s animation aplenty. And there’s a riveting documentary from an Oscar-winning director.

eternals.jpg Disney+ Release date: Jan. 12, 2022 (originally released Nov. 5, 2021)
Director: Chloé Zhao
Stars: Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Kumail Nanjiani, Lia McHugh, Brian Tyree Henry, Lauren Ridloff, Barry Keoghan, Don Lee, Harish Patel, Kit Harington, Salma Hayek, Angelina Jolie
Rating: PG-13
Paste Review Score: 4.7


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Chloé Zhao’s Eternals is not a film that frustrates because it misses an obvious target, plunges down the wrong path or even mangles the source material. In fact, it doesn’t really frustrate at all. Instead, it just kinda … occupies time? Oh, plenty of things happen, but, weighed down by 11 or so narrative arcs of mostly “bland new” superheroes—creator Jack Kirby’s signature style and energy is mostly absent—while also dutifully doling out a millennia-spanning, massively predictable larger plot, Eternals never really feels that connected to the greater MCU. Instead, it feels like a well-shot but rather densely packed educational film on some other comic universe, one filled with off-brand heroes and the usual array of power sets. If Eternals had merely been an enjoyable ensemble one-off—an Ocean’s Eleven or Knives Out of the MCU’s very own!—that could have been delightful. But there’s no real magic, Marvel or otherwise, happening here. Eternals is unlikely to leave audiences wanting more (or remembering much), though it may well whet the appetite for the day when the Fantastic Four and X-Men finally arrive.—Michael Burgin
encanto.jpg Disney+ Release date: Dec. 24 2021 (originally released Nov. 24, 2021)
Directors: Jared Bush, Byron Howard
Stars: Stephanie Beatriz, María Cecilia Botero, Diane Guerrero
Rating: PG


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Both Disney and Lin-Manuel Miranda had better showings this year (Raya and the Last Dragon; In the Heights), but Encanto’s blessings—like those of Mirabel, the only member of the Madrigal family without magical abilities—are enjoyably subtle. Beneath the hyper-Miranda songs (“Surface Pressure” gives in most deeply to his writing tics, but “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” showcases just how good he is with catchy complexity) and the heightened realism of its characters lurks a lush fairy tale haunted not by evil witches or dastardly dragons but by the hardships of the past and fears for the future. Directors Jared Bush and Byron Howard craft a mature story of family strife that won’t scare off kids, packaging it all neatly and specifically into the Colombian jungle. A shockingly versatile lead performance from Stephanie Beatriz, who sings and charms and jokes like she’s been a Disney princess before, and a few great supporters (John Leguizamo’s put-down prognosticator steals every scene) keep the already light tale moving briskly along. Encanto isn’t the flashiest or most heartbreaking of the more traditional Disney musicals, but it’s crisp and smart—and its miracles might linger with you longer than you expect.—Jacob Oller
the-rescue.jpg Disney+ Release date: Dec. 3, 2021 (originally released Oct. 8, 2021)
Directors: Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, Jimmy Chin
Rating: TV-14


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You probably remember the young soccer team trapped in a flooded cave in Thailand in 2018. National Geographic documentary The Rescue tells the story of the cave divers trying to save the 12 children and their coach. Since Netflix secured the rights to the boys’ stories, this film is focused solely on the rescuers. Directed by Oscar-winner Kevin Macdonald (Touching the Void, The Last King of Scotland, The Mauritanian), The Rescue racked up awards on the festival circuit before a limited release in October. It’s now streaming on Disney+.
wimpy-kid.jpg Disney+ Release date: December 3, 2021
Director: Swinton Scott
Rating: PG


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After four live-action Diary of a Wimpy Kid movies, Disney has rebooted the franchise with this animated film. Clocking in at less than an hour, this version is based on Jeff Kinney’s screenplay adaption of his own book about hapless new middle-schooler Greg Heffley.
home-sweet.jpg Disney+ Release date: November 12, 2021
Director: Dan Mazer
Stars: Rob Delaney, Ellie Kemper, Archie Yates, Aisling Bea, Devin Ratray, Andy Daly, Pete Holmes, Chris Parnell, Kenan Thompson
Rating:PG
Paste Review Score: 3.0


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No one in their right mind would be entering the experience of viewing Home Sweet Home Alone on Disney+ with any pronounced degree of expectation or irrational optimism. This is, after all, a feature film from director Dan Mazer, the architect behind such gems as 2016’s Robert De Niro-starring Dirty Grandpa, produced on what looks like a TV budget to become just another piece of tawdry holiday content gathering dust in the Disney+ library for 11 months out of the year. Expectations for such a cynically thrown-together attempt to mine the nostalgia of 1990’s Home Alone could scarcely be any lower, to the point that all this film had to do in order to raise no fuss would be to surpass the dregs that already exist in the franchise—everything from 1997’s Home Alone 3 to the two made-for-TV installments in 2002 and 2012. A likeable child actor, a few bumbling crooks, a little schmaltz and an array of slapstick traps—that shouldn’t be too hard to replicate, right? How, then, does any modern film, even one relegated to streaming hell, manage to fundamentally misunderstand its task as catastrophically as Home Sweet Home Alone? This film was meant to be mindless entertainment; instead it’s a baffling exercise in modernization without purpose. Every attempt it makes to update some aspect of Home Alone for 2021 only succeeds in sapping some other aspect of the screenplay. Being asked to conceive an outline for Home Sweet Home Alone should have been a surpassingly simple task, in which producers only really needed to focus on solid casting and engaging performances. Instead, the result is an abject disaster, destined for the rubbish bin of holiday movie infamy. We look forward to the next clever subversion of the franchise a decade from now, which will presumably be a film about a kid who just goes on a pleasant vacation with his parents, free from incident. —Jim Vorel
shang-chi.jpg Disney+ Release date: Nov. 12, 2021 (originally released Aug. 16, 2021)
Director: Destin Daniel Cretton
Stars: Simu Liu, Awkwafina, Meng’er Zhang, Fala Chen, Florian Munteanu, Benedict Wong, Michelle Yeoh, Tony Leung, Ben Kingsley
Rating: PG-13
Paste Review Score: 5.9


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Delayed by and filmed throughout the pandemic, filmmaker Destin Daniel Cretton’s sprawling and intangible martial arts journey wears its rich influences openly, treats its supporting cast reverently and dilutes it all predictably. Despite hints of the interpersonal nuance Cretton brought to his indie work (best seen in 2013’s Short Term 12) lurking in a bulky script, recognizable elements of Asian action cinema struggling for breath under countless layers of digital sediment and one of our greatest living actors working wonders as its villain, Shang-Chi is as bland and busy as its title. Poor Simu Liu never had a chance. Every character is more interesting than the actor’s Shang-Chi, who’s a straight man foil to the world around him. He is the sweet-faced stoic to Awkwafina’s Katy (his rambling, riffing, spotlight-stealing comic relief pal) and—as is implied through countless flashbacks and, naturally, a long opening Legend—the allegedly brooding center of the film’s themes of identity and inheritance. But the San Franciscan valet with the heart of gold, single-digit body fat, and secret, mythical family history has a personality akin to circling a lot looking for parking. He is a vehicle for plot to drive around, picking up more interesting characters (Ben Kingsley’s faux Mandarin; Benedict Wong’s Wong) along its extended roadtrip. That’s because, really, this isn’t Shang-Chi’s movie at all. It’s the movie of his father, Tony Leung’s Wenwu AKA The Mandarin. Not only is his character arc the only compelling one of the film and not only is Leung an ultra-charismatic master at handsome mystique, but he’s the essential force of the unwieldy story. That frustration especially chafes because of how clearly Shang-Chi desires to inject a cultural and personal uniqueness into its fantasy template. The idea that someone must wrestle with familial expectations, the desire to be one’s own person and the inherent influence upon that person by those that came before them is a compelling inner struggle—one that could have special resonance for Asian Americans. But with only the vaguest of gestures towards this deeper emotional conflict—not helped by a main character who’s only got that title because his name is in the movie’s—it’s drowned in an overload of particle effects and Easter eggs. Shang-Chi’s a long and often sidetracked movie so, if you’re inclined, there’s plenty of time to find these threads and pull them, hoping not to unravel anything but to find something meaningful at their ends. That the threads exist at all hints that Cretton or one of his two co-writers attempted this specificity—in addition to their casting choices, karaoke scenes and nods to understanding (but not really speaking) a parent’s language—but that their ambitions were either incompatible with or swallowed up by the needs of a wide-ranging origin story with its eyes squarely on a boardroom flowchart’s future.—Jacob Oller
jungle-cruise-poster.jpg Disney+ Release date: Nov. 12, 2021 (originally released July 30, 2021)
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Stars: Dwayne Johnson, Emily Blunt, Édgar Ramírez, Jack Whitehall, Jesse Plemons, Paul Giamatti
Rating: PG-13
Paste Review Score: 4.3


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I’m not a Disney theme park person, but thankfully I didn’t have to be for Pirates of the Caribbean. That movie was an anomaly. There’s no reason that it should’ve been so good or been able to build such fun out of source material that all too easily brings out our inner cynic. This dull semi-mystical boat trip lacks the charisma and action prowess of its ride-based predecessor. Even if you have some level of affection for the retro style and setting of its source, the confused collection of conflicting influences and tones underneath are, at their very best, an advertisement for the better movies cannibalized to create its ramshackle ship. Director Jaume Collet-Serra and his fully crewed vessel of writers never sink all the way to the bottom, but the very best they accomplish is keeping their heads above water. Tough khaki-clad hero Lily (Emily Blunt) and her foppish brother McGregor (Jack Whitehall) seek a magical healing plant somewhere along the Amazon, ferried by Frank (Dwayne Johnson) and pursued by Prince Joachim (Jesse Plemons). The siblings are Brits, Frank is American and Joachim is exceedingly German. It’s in the middle of WWI, some on-screen text assures us. The point here really isn’t the relatively meaningless MacGuffin destination, but the cruise. Lily and Frank have a lightly bickering, unbearably Disneyfied African Queen thing going on (less boozing, more benign sexism), mixed with hand-me-down pulp tropes purchased at Indiana Jones’ estate sale. Jungle Cruise desperately wants to replicate the success of its mythology-building, franchise-starting, ride-enlivening corporate older brother. But without a charming breakout character, a visual grasp of action or an aesthetic able to miraculously blend the grimy ol’ human hardships that turn journeys into quests and the magic that turns quests into adventures, Jungle Cruise crashes into the kind of mediocrity that many assumed would doom Pirates. Some might enjoy meandering down its lazy river, but most will realize they’re simply marinating in recycled juices. —Jacob Oller
rons-gone-wrong.jpg Disney+ Release date: Dec. 15, 2021 (originally released Oct. 22, 2021)
Directors: Jean-Philippe Vine, Sarah Smith; co-director Octavio E. Rodriguez
Stars: Zach Galifianakis, Jack Dylan Grazer, Ed Helms, Justice Smith, Rob Delaney, Olivia Colman
Rating: PG-13


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Ron’s Gone Wrong is the most recently patched version of that perennial kids’ movie variant, the condescending lesson slathered in bright and marketable silliness. It isn’t just out of touch—it’s never seen a touchscreen. The animated comedy about a kid who falls in love with his defective robot pal—inexplicably the only one to ever malfunction in a world overrun by them—is half old fogey lecture and half Silicon Valley puff piece, built from the scrap of better movies. As an ironically retro foil to infinitely superior The Mitchells vs. the Machines, Ron’s Gone Wrong takes a character flaw from that film’s rub-some-dirt-in-it Luddite dad and expands it into a premise: The children of the world, God help them, are only communicating to each other through screens! Personal robo friends (B-bots, not to be confused with The Mitchells’ PAL Maxes) stand in here for social media at large and the devices used to access it, combining likes, shared photos and videos, games and more into little mobile AirPod cases that follow their kids around. But worse than being glued to technology, we learn, is not having said technology at all. Enter Barney (Jack Dylan Grazer), who lives with his widower father (Ed Helms), vaguely Bulgarian grandmother (Olivia Colman) and conspicuous lack of consumption. Thanks to financial and cultural reasons, Barney hasn’t been in on the fad, which has left him an outcast. He’s the only one in the whole school without a B-bot…until his family buys a damaged B-bot (Zach Galifianakis) that quite literally fell off a truck. Problem solved! But this B-bot is terrible: He, like the screenplay, is stuck in repetitive loops of dialogue and makes nonsensical leaps in logic. The pair of nonrefundable lower-middle class misfits must learn to love each other. And they do, improbably developing affection—conveyed by Grazer joylessly giggling through his dialogue—thanks to, rather than in spite of, Ron’s imperfections. At times, the throwback goofiness of Ron’s Gone Wrong can be amusingly quaint, but more often the film is humorless, sentimental tripe that couldn’t find its point if it had a dozen B-bots giving GPS directions. If you want to see a movie aimed towards a younger audience that engages with the increasing and increasingly intriguing relationship we have with technology, I can’t recommend The Mitchells vs. The Machines highly enough. Leave Ron’s Gone Wrong to its fate as the movie that grandparents will mistakenly rent in its place. —Jacob Oller
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