This Christmas, Damian Wayne wants to be a Super Hero like his dad—the one and only Batman. When Damian is left home alone while Batman takes on Gotham’s worst Super-Villains on Christmas Eve, he stumbles upon a villainous plot to steal Christmas and leaps at the chance to save the day.
Get ready to see Damian Wayne as you’ve never seen him before. As the cutest wannabe Batman that ever entered the Batcave. Merry Little Batman is the holiday movie you never knew you needed and I think director Mike Roth for bringing us this incredible, stylish new take on Gotham.
Comic book fans will want to set aside any idea of continuity here. Damian isn’t the assassin raised by Talia and the League of Shadows. Though his mother is alluded to (in some hilarious ways), we’re introduced to Damian (Yonas Kibreab) is the doting son of billionaire Bruce Wayne (Luke Wilson). But more importantly he knows that his dad is Batman and he can’t wait to grow up and join the family business. In fact, all Damian wants for Christmas is a Bat-tastic adventure. But when Batman is called away on Justice League business, it’s up to Damian to protect Wayne Manor and, if he’s lucky, the city.
When two hapless criminals break in to the manor and steal his utility belt, Damian finds the excuse he needs to prove to his father he can be the hero Gotham needs. What follows is an incredible series of events as Damian traverses the city, faces some of Batman’s greatest villains and getting in to all sorts of trouble.
Kibreab is incredible. His Damian voice balances his youthful energy alongside a real burning desire to be a hero. He’s less acerbic than the standard Damian Wayne and the film benefits from it greatly. Whilst comic book purists may feels he’s a step away from the obnoxious know it all from Batman comics, this version is perfect for the film’s target audience. Likewise, Luke Wilson gets to play a version of Batman that fans aren’t normally accustomed to seeing. Bat-dad. Whilst Batman is still able to get in on the action, he’s predominantly presented as a concerned and somewhat smothering parent. Wilson’s approach is both amiable and hilarious withou sacrificing Batman’s edge. Even Joker is intimidated by the new beard…
Merry Little Batman is one part comic book movie, one part Home Alone and on part Jingle All The Way. Roth and writers Morgan Evans, Etan Cohen, and Jase Ricci steer the ship away from the Dark Knight’s darker tales yet never shy away from exploring what it’s like to live in Batman’s shadow. For a film aimed at children there’s a surprising amount of substance and real emotional subtext to Damian. A black and white sequence towards the big climax really explores the impact of his mission on his mental state. A welcome addition to an area of cinema which has become overly sanitised in recent years. But fear not parents, this is still mostly a fun, family friendly adventure.
So much of Roth’s filmmaking is a nod to Batmans past. Joker (David Hornsby) wearing a Nicholson-like fedora. A bumbling Bane (Chris Sullivan) working as Poison Ivy’s (Therese McLaughlin) sidekick. A grotesque Penguin (Brian George) waddling around Gotham. But most importantly, a Schwarzenegger-like Mr. Freeze (Dolph Adomian) who spouts some incredibly bad ice puns which feel ripped from a Joel Schumacher film. Each makes for a great cameo honouring Batman-lore whilst tipping the hat to past movies.
In a world where animation is dominated by 3D CGI it’s wonderful to see this film taking a more traditional approach. Yes the design work is contemporary and strikingly unique. But the 2D style is a welcome change from the norm with nostalgic consequences. I was instantly transported back to childhood cartoon favourites. With a Bat-Family series soon to follow this film it’s going to be great to see Damian and this wacky world living on for years to come.
Merry Little Batman is a fun, family comic book adventure perfect for the holidays. Striking animation and hilarious comedy make for the perfect pairing as a determined Damian Wayne takes on Gotham’s most devious villains.