When it comes to movie recommendations here at Ditching, we often focus on the adult stuff: the dramatic thrillers, grisly crime saga, and decidedly not-safe-for-kids documentaries (we’re looking at you, Netflix).
But among all the new horror movies and Oscar-nominated pictures in 2022, there are plenty of family-oriented features available to watch on streaming services — and Disney Plus, in particular, has the best of everything.
So this Easter weekend we are going to put a stop to the violence and boost the sense of adventure. Below you’ll find our pick of the best Disney Plus movies to enjoy with the whole family (and don’t worry, all the movies we’ve picked are available to watch around the world).
Credit: Disney Pixar
Let’s start with Turning Red, the latest (and 25th!) animated photo from perennial magic-maker Pixar Studios. Directed by Domee Shi (best known for directing Pixar’s Oscar-winning short film Bao), the film tells the story of a young girl living in Toronto, Meilin “Mei” Lee (Rosalie Chiang), who turns into a giant red panda when her emotions come to a boil.
However, if you say much more about Turning Red’s plot, you risk ruining the film’s most powerful moments. It makes some brave storytelling choices about adolescence and family responsibility, which director Shi and producer Lindsey Collins spoke to us about in March. However, viewers should know that they can expect a beautifully rendered melting pot of anime influences, 90s culture and quintessential Pixar charm with something to offer for all ages.
A making-of special, Embrace the Panda, is also available to stream on Disney Plus for those interested in how this furry creation came about (oh, and you add 4*TOWN’s Nobody Like U song to your Spotify playlist right after watching).
(Image credit: Disney)
Ever been to Disneyland? If so, you’re probably familiar with the Jungle Cruise, a riverboat ride that sends gamblers through a stream full of animatronic animals and lost explorers. Well, Disney decided to turn that ride into a feature film — as it did with the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise — and the result is the not-so-imaginative Jungle Cruise.
The film, starring Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt, follows a doctor and boat captain as they search for an ancient tree with healing powers. If that doesn’t sound like the most original premise, it’s because it isn’t – but a great cast and high production values still make Jungle Cruise a great fun adventure (think of it as an expensive mix of The Mummy, Uncharted, and Journey to the Middle from the earth).
As with Black Widow before it, Jungle Cruise initially came to Disney Plus via the streamer’s Premier Access service, but the film has since been detached from its former paywall and is now streaming for free.
Sing along encanto
Unless you’ve been living under a rock in 2022, you’ve already heard Encanto’s record-breaking earwig, We Don’t Talk About Bruno. In all likelihood, you probably know some of the lyrics too, but to help you out, the nice folks at Disney have now added a sing-along version of the movie to Disney Plus.
After struggling to create a furor in theaters against Spider-Man: No Way Home last November, Encanto came to Disney’s streamer a month later and became an almost instant hit. It tells the story of the Madrigals, an extraordinary family who live in a magic-drenched house known as the Casita. Every child in the family is blessed with a magical gift, except Mirabel (Stephanie Beatriz), who is called into action when the Casita is threatened by a mysterious force.
Despite the catchy songbook, Encanto is a top-tier Disney animation in its own right, mixing color and culture—in a way akin to Pixar’s Coco—to mesmerizing effect. For our money, Ratatouille is still the best of Disney Plus’ modern animations, but Encanto is certainly one of the nicest.
West Side Story
Credit: 20th Century Studios
While not for the youngest family members, Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story provides a rare excuse for you and yours to wallow in the couch for nearly three hours this weekend.
A big-budget retelling of the 1957 musical of the same name (and the second film adaptation after the 1961 classic), this fresh take on Arthur Laurent’s iconic story stars Ansel Elgot as Tony and Rachel Zegler as Maria, whose forbidden romance is stifled. by warring (and singing and dancing…) gangs in 1950s New York.
The latest picture of Spielberg performed poorly at the worldwide box office upon release last year, but excellent reviews and a handful of Oscar nominations made West Side Story an instant Disney Plus recommendation when it hit the streamer’s library in March.
(Image credit: Disney)
Emma Stone stars as the titular villain in this original story of Cruella de Vil, the infamous dog napper who first terrorized the spotted puppies of 101 Dalmatians in 1961.
Rather than paint Cruella as the terrifying fashionista audience came to know, director Craig Gillespie’s film puts a refreshing anti-hero spin on proceedings (sort of like 2019’s Joker – though that’s by no means a family film). This story is set in London at the height of the 1970s punk rock movement. In this story, a young Cruella – or Estella, for starters – finds her way through the city before landing a dream job designing dresses for an established fashion house. However, it doesn’t take long for Cruella to realize that she must be the one running the show.
In our review of the film, we said Cruella is “truly remarkable as a ‘premake’ that does justice to a notorious Disney villain, brimming with fresh and outlandish ideas to keep it from feeling like a box-ticking origin story.” Those reasons aside, however, Cruella’s Oscar-winning costumes make it one of the most visually dazzling films in recent memory.
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