‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid Christmas: Cabin Fever’
The latest release in Jeff Kinney’s mega-successful “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” franchise of books, movies and merchandise (Tote bags! Board games! Stress balls!) is this animated holiday tale in which a middle schooler, Greg Heffley (voiced by Wesley Kimmel from “The Mandalorian”), gets trapped in his house with his family when a blizzard blows into town. Just before he got snowed in, Greg and his BFF, Rowley (Spencer Howell), accidentally damaged a snowplow after sending a giant snowball rolling down a hill. Greg and Rowley flee the scene, and Greg spends his time cooped up worrying that he’ll be caught by the authorities and won’t get the video game he covets for Christmas. Luke Cormican (“Teen Titans Go!”) directed this animated film, and Kinney wrote the screenplay. There’s enough humor, tension and relatable family dynamics to keep both longtime “Wimpy Kid” fans and little ones who are new to the series entertained.
‘Merry Little Batman’
The director Mike Roth (“Regular Show”) brings a slight punk rock aesthetic to this animated tale of a young Damian Wayne (voiced by Yonas Kibreab), the 8-year-old son of Batman and Talia al Ghul, who longs to become a superhero like his father. In this iteration of the DC legend, Batman/Bruce Wayne (Luke Wilson) is a bearded, flannel-wearing, overprotective hipster dad who rid Gotham of all crime before his son was born. When Batman gets a mysterious call about an emergency on Christmas Eve, his trusty aide, Alfred (James Cromwell), helps him suit up, and little Damian is all alone at home (yes, there are plenty of nods to “Home Alone”). Soon it’s time for Damian to stop goofing around, so he puts on his golden utility belt and goes out to fight crime like his father taught him to. He meets villains like the Joker (David Hornsby) and Bane (Chris Sullivan), and learns that, as his dad tells him, being a superhero takes “focus, responsibility and sacrifice.” The rollicking energy and comedy make this film, produced by Warner Bros. Animation, a superhero holiday movie that kids — and their bearded hipster parents — should have fun watching.
This one may not go down in history as a holiday classic, but it has enough over-the-top goofiness to entertain school-age kids while you bake a pie or do some work over the winter break. Eddie Garrick (Chris Bridges, known as Ludacris) is a Scrooge of a dad. He can’t stand carolers, and he’d much rather celebrate Juneteenth or Arbor Day than Christmas, a.k.a. “the chicken wing of holidays.” Eddie is a social worker in Atlanta whose family was burgled by a mall Santa when he was a kid — hence his hatred for the holiday. He’s now reluctantly separated from his wife, Allison (Teyonah Parris, “The Marvels” and “Candyman”), so he’s spending Christmas Eve with his adorable daughter, Charlotte (Madison Skye Validum), who just loves Santa. This being a pretty silly, predictable tale, you will not be on pins and needles waiting to see if Garrick comes to embrace the holiday spirit, but Bridges is compelling enough to hold your attention. The comedian Lil Rel Howery is Nick/Santa, a character who may be another burglar or derelict but who also may be the real St. Nick. Oscar Nuñez plays a villainous politician, and Mary Lynn Rajskub, Marcus Lewis and Ravi Patel are his goons. Tim Story (“Barbershop,” “Think Like a Man”) directs this film from a script by Scott Rosenberg (“Venom”).
‘The Velveteen Rabbit’
This special, which combines live action and animation, brings Margery Williams’s classic 1922 story to a new generation. A shy, lonely boy named William (Phoenix Laroche) becomes even more timid when his family moves to a new town where he knows no one. William gets a stuffed Velveteen Rabbit for Christmas, and the two become fast friends. One night when William goes to sleep, the rabbit (voiced by Alex Lawther, “Andor”) comes alive and meets the other toys in the playroom, including Wise Horse, voiced by the Oscar-nominated actress Helena Bonham Carter. William’s real world is live action; the rabbit’s is stop-motion animation. When William and the rabbit interact, it’s an illustrated realm that brings their worlds together. Long before “Toy Story,” Williams’s tale depicted the deep bond between children and their most cherished toys, revealing truths about friendship and love. It’s all very sweet and a bit earnest, which means it’s perfect holiday-season viewing. Tom Bidwell (“My Mad Fat Diary”) wrote the script, and Jennifer Perrott and Rick Thiele directed.
The small, fictional town of Pleasant Bay, Ore., is scandalized when Santa’s magical golden sleigh bells — the community’s prized possession — go missing. A young boy found the bells a century before, and ever since, they have been on display in the local museum. The citizens believe that the bells bring peace and luck to the town. Because George (Drew Powell) has a history of theft and is a janitor at the museum, he is accused of stealing the town treasure. He has a son, Kenny (Santino Barnard), whose best friend, Violet (Violet McGraw, “M3gan”), recruits friends to help her find the actual thief and get George home for Christmas; after all, it was her father (Eddie Cibrian), the town sheriff, who arrested George. There’s a “Goonies” vibe happening, with the kids on a quest to solve a mystery since the adults don’t have a clue. If George isn’t the culprit, maybe it’s the museum director, Mr. Martin (Oscar Nuñez from “Dashing Through the Snow”) or the shifty Mayor Donovan (Beau Bridges). The story, writing and performances are a bit hokey, but that shouldn’t stop youngsters from rooting for Violet and her friends to save the day.