Pixar's longtime domination of the animation world takes its toll, as generational rifts and/or personal neuroses are what gets treated here — including Pixar's own, more-than-a-little creepy entry, Bao. Woman bites into dumpling, discovers it's sentient, raises it as her child, and then things get strange. They're still going for heartwarming by the end, but it ain't a pretty ride to get there, visually or otherwise. Weekends wins for artisanal style as it follows a kid back and forth between Mom's country house and Dad's cool apartment in the city, but feels much more interested in feelings (alienation, fear, acceptance) than story. One Small Step gives us a girl whose shoemaker father tracks her steps toward a spacewalk, starting with a pair of kiddie moon boots, and wins for cuteness/sweetness as it does so. Late Afternoon goes for the gut with a story of memories lost and recovered, and while there's pleasure and skill in keeping things simple, there's also such a thing as overdoing it. The clear overall champ is Animal Behavior, which does great work with a straightforward premise that needs animation to work properly — putting critters in group therapy and having them grapple with their socially problematic behaviors. (2019) — Matthew Lickona
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