5 Children’s Movies to Stream Now

5 Children’s Movies to Stream Now

Thelma (voiced by the powerhouse singer Brittany Howard) is a plain old donkey who works on a farm all day and sings with her Rusty Buckets bandmates, Otis (Will Forte) and Reggie (Jon Heder from “Napoleon Dynamite”), at night. Thelma displays some impressive pipes, but the band doesn’t make it far in the Sparklepalooza talent search because it just doesn’t have that it factor. Thelma’s nemesis, pop star Nikki Narwhal (Ally Dixon), is set on keeping Thelma out of the spotlight, but when some sparkly pink paint spills on Thelma and a carrot becomes stuck on her forehead, making her look like a magical unicorn, she’s inspired to ditch her band, pretend to be someone she’s not and make it big.

It’s a story about selling out, losing yourself and finding your way back. There are some genuinely funny moments thanks to the co-writers Jared and Jerusha Hess (the husband and wife team behind “Napoleon Dynamite” and “Nacho Libre”) and the voice talents of Fred Armisen, Jemaine Clement, Edi Patterson and Zach Galifianakis. It’s based on a children’s book by Aaron Blabey (“The Bad Guys”) and is co-directed by Jared Hess and Lynn Wang. Howard’s mighty voice on songs like “Just as You Are” turns a cute story into a movie that might just make you cry.

Watch it on Netflix.

On her way home from school one day, Suzume (Nanoka Hara in Japanese and Nichole Sakura in English), a teenager living on the Japanese island of Kyushu, walks past a stranger who says he’s looking for an abandoned door. When Suzume tells this stranger, named Souta (Hokuto Matsumura in Japanese and Josh Keaton in English), to look in some nearby ruins, this fantastical tale — which includes magical portals, mischievous talking cats and a quest to save the world from deadly earthquakes — is set in motion.

Suzume lost her mother years before and has been raised by an aunt. The director Makoto Shinkai (“Weathering With You,” “Your Name.”) also wrote the story, which hits on themes of grief and growing up, but there is also plenty of humor. When Souta is transformed into a talking wooden chair, there are moments of physical comedy that are silly and also surprisingly touching. It’s a visually gorgeous and emotionally striking film that will captivate children of all ages and young teenagers (and parents, too).

Watch it on Disney+.

This 2022 Oscar nominee for visual effects follows an aimless dude in San Francisco named Shaun (Simu Liu), who does a whole lot of nothing with his buddy and fellow valet car parker Katy (Awkwafina). Despite his seemingly humdrum existence, Shaun, a.k.a. Shang-Chi, actually comes from a family of supernatural martial arts masters. His grief-stricken father (Tony Leung) created the Ten Rings society after Shaun’s mother (Fala Chen) died, and the Ten Rings army has sought justice and destroyed kingdoms for centuries. His sister, Xialing (Meng’er Zhang), is also keeping some ninja secrets of her own.

When Shang-Chi is forced to confront his dysfunctional family and join his sister in stopping their father from destroying, well, everything, his superhero instincts take over. The director Destin Daniel Cretton (“Short Term 12,” “The Glass Castle”) draws out intimate performances that endear you to the characters — even Shaun’s father. There are gorgeous fight sequences and enough Marvel universe action to enthrall children and teenagers. Michelle Yeoh makes a brief appearance as Shang-Chi’s aunt who teaches him to harness his fighting skills for good.

Watch it on Hulu.

The Uglydolls line of offbeat-looking stuffed animals was introduced about 20 years ago, and their “face only a mother could love” aesthetic captured the hearts of children all over the world. In 2019, an animated musical feature based on the toys was released, with a roster of voice talent that includes Kelly Clarkson, Blake Shelton, Janelle Monáe, Emma Roberts, Pitbull, Nick Jonas, Lizzo and Wanda Sykes.

Clarkson voices the snaggletoothed main character, Moxy, who longs to leave her rundown realm of Uglyville and become accepted and loved by children in the real, non-Uglydoll world. There are mean-girl dolls, a devious mayor and other obstacles in Moxie’s way. The ultimate message to children is to accept yourself just as you are. The bright pops of color and upbeat songs should get toddlers and youngsters dancing around the living room in the spirit of “Sing” or “Trolls.” Kelly Asbury (“Shrek 2”) directed and Alison Peck (“You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah”) wrote the script.

Watch it on Peacock.

This sequel, released earlier this year, came 14 years after the original “Megamind” movie, and while the new iteration doesn’t have the voice talents of Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Tina Fey and Will Ferrell, it should appeal to older toddlers and younger children who love to watch a motley crew of superheroes.

Megamind (Keith Ferguson) has moved on from his villainous past and is now the protector of Metro City. He’s figuring out how to do the whole actual superhero thing, instead of being a lovable antihero as he was before. There’s enough action to keep children engaged, but it doesn’t live up to the visuals, humor or story line of the original. Still, in a pinch, this one should entertain little viewers for its whole 80 or so minutes. Eric Fogel (“Archibald’s Next Big Thing,” “Descendants: Wicked World”) directed; and Alan Schoolcraft and Brent Simons, who co-wrote the original film together, penned the script.

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