Super (hero) fun for the whole family, Merry Little Batman is a zany, exciting romp that sees a miniature Batman trying to save Christmas from some of his dad's biggest foes.
Merry Little Batman Review
It's Christmastime in Gotham City and Alfred Pennyworth (James Cromwell) has prepared a generous feast for Wayne Manor. Bruce Wayne (Luke Wilson) has just given his young son Damien (Yoneas Kibreab) his first utility belt when he is unexpectedly called away by an emergency. Damien wants nothing more than to be a hero like his dad and soon he gets his chance when some burglars break into the manor. They are trying to steal Christmas from the wrong house. Soon Damien discovers they aren't just petty thieves. They are actually working for The Joker (David Hornsby) who intends to ruin Christmas for everyone in Gotham. Damien grabs a suit from the Batcave and sets off to stop Joker and his fellow villains including Poison Ivy (Therese McLaughlin), Bane (Chris Sullivan), and the Penguin (Brian George), before it's too late. His goals are simple– save Christmas and prove to his dad he is ready to become a hero.
Home Alone comes to the DC universe in Merry Little Batman, a laugh-out-loud, zany, and fun holiday caper. Unlike other Batman titles, this one offers something for the whole family. Longtime fans or just those looking for something light and amusing to watch this time of year will find it in this film. Forget the brooding, serial killer hunting Batman from Matt Reeves or the “you wanna get nuts” Keaton Batman, this Batman is happily retired having solved all the crime in Gotham before Damien was born. Director Mike Roth, who has worked on other cartoon hits like Camp Lazlo and Regular Show, maximizes the craziness that can be achieved with animation to pull off Morgan Evans and Jase Ricci's energetic story. The voice cast delivers their lines with zeal as they tell a story about a boy wanting to make his dad proud. But it is Hornsby who runs away with the whole thing as the outrageously silly Clown Prince of Crime.
Kibreab is a ray of sunshine, full of exuberance as the young Damien. He is the perfect contrast to the typical dark and gritty Batman we have come to expect in these situations. Even when he goes serious, it is clear this is a kid playing hero in a way he thinks will make his dad happy. When it comes to child protagonists, they can veer too far into the annoying side of things but Damien is written to be well-rounded, with his own strengths and weaknesses. Sure he is able to go toe to toe with dangerous villains because he's Batman's son but he also gets into a fair amount of trouble when he makes the wrong decisions in battle. After all, he is still very much a kid. Watching him approach situations in true superhero style to then seeing chaos ensue due to him being a child are equally entertaining and charming. Kibreab sells every second of it.
Wilson brings a laid-back vibe to Bats, unless of course someone messes with his precious baby boy. Gone is the unsmiling, dead inside Bruce Wayne and standing in his place is a friendly, caring, protective dad who wants nothing more than for his child to enjoy being a kid. Wilson was the ideal choice for this as his voice just fits with the whole lighthearted, nurturing figure type. Damian's relationship with his father is the beating heart of Merry Little Batman and what makes it stand apart from other DC superhero films. It may be unpopular to say this, but I for one would love to see more of this type of Batman in the DC universe.
But as mentioned, Hornsby absolutely steals the show as the Joker who acs like Grinch. steals presents away from Gotham citizens all while cackling at varying pitches. Animation serves this Joker well, especially the style used here. It allows his expressions to take on a life of their own, like how his eyes change shape according to his emotions. Then there are his movements which are oftentimes unpredictable–sometimes he looks menacing, other times he pouts and throws a tantrum like a child. Hornsby infuses each line with frenetic energy. His voice sounds like what I would imagine the Joker sounding like when I read the comics. Fans of Hornsby will hear a little bit of Cricket (It's Always Sunny) in the performance, which just makes me imagine Cricket ending up as mad as the Joker by the end of that series.
What makes Merry Little Batman the best DC movie in years is not just Hornsby's Joker or the bond between father and son, but it's the fact that it never takes itself too seriously. That includes when it comes to Bat's on screen legacy. Similarly to the LEGO Batman movie, this one also pokes fun at its main hero, zeroing in on some of the most head-scratching things to happen to Bruce over the years. Bat ice skates? Who thought that was a good idea? Then there is the Clooney suit which as Damien points out leaves nothing to the imagination. It's nice to see something embrace the softer and sillier sides to Batman and his story. Because despite what The Dark Knight may have you believe, they are definitely there throughout his history.
Speaking of bat skates, there are loads of easter eggs for DC fans to find. There is Selena, the Wayne family's cat, a line-up of Bat suits, and Bruce rocking a Talia tattoo. The other villains are just as absurd as the Joker. Like seeing a softer side to Batman it's equally exciting to see the baddies drop their psychotic, murderous veneers to embrace a more outlandish, cartoony side to themselves. They aren't trying to kill anyone, they just want presents and to keep this little kid from ruining their holidays. The animation is colorful for the characters, textured for the backgrounds, with some surprises. There is a certain chase scene that feels like comic panels brought to life, which is also fun to see in any comic book movie.
Merry Little Batman is a laugh-out-loud, zany, heartwarming, fun holiday caper. Delivering spirited voice performances and big action sequences, while never overstaying its welcome, this film is an absolute blast for the whole family. So dust off the karaoke mic and get ready to belt out “Jingle Bells, Batman Smells” because this holiday film is just what the citizens (and fans of Batman) have been waiting for.
Merry Little Batman is available to stream on Prime Video in the U.S. starting December 8. It has a runtime of 92 minutes.