Review by Jonathan Berk
Batman is the character that just keeps on giving. In the spirit of the season, Prime Video has Merry Little Batman, a new animated Batman holiday movie, and yes, it contains the iconic “Jingle Bells” parody song. While this story doesn’t quite smell, it also fails to lock itself in as an instant Christmas classic.
The story focuses on young Damian Wayne (Yonas Kibreab), who is determined to prove himself ready to be a superhero to his less-brooding-than-usual father, Bruce (Luke Wilson). However, in this world, Batman has defeated crime in Gotham, so there is less need for the bat. Bruce has focused on being a good father to Damian and is understandably overprotective and overbearing (considering his whole character exists due to unresolved trauma). Damian gets his chance to prove himself as he confronts many enemies in the city after finding himself home alone in Wayne Manor.
Kibreab is the film’s center and does a great job with the voice acting. Damian has a lot of energy and enthusiasm. This is an “else-world” type story, as none of the characters truly resemble the canon versions of them. While Damian gets his chance to be Kevin in Home Alone, the movie gets going when Damian is forced to chase after the two burglars.
Batman fans will find joy in tons of the references and Easter eggs, though it is not quite to the level of The LEGO Batman Movie. There is a clear nod to Adam West’s Batman with the Batphone. Joel Schumacher’s Batman films are referenced in a few ways, which makes a lot of sense since this Christmas special is sillier in tone than Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. If you’re a Batman fan, there will be many moments where you will be the Leonardo DiCaprio pointing meme.
Chief among them are the number of villains from Batman’s iconic rogue gallery. The introduction of each has fun story beats, and the basis of their designs spans the various eras of the characters. There are many variations of the characters show up. The most obvious one to appear is the Joker, voiced this time by David Hornsby. This performance is probably the weakest in the film, possibly just because of the sheer pedigree he is up against. Some may feel the Joker is too scary a villain for an animated Christmas special, but we have seen the Joker work in various contexts. The laugh Hornsby does never quite feels correct, but it’s not a deal breaker.
No Christmas movie is complete without its music selection, and the soundtrack for this one is perfect. While every rendition isn’t necessarily the best version of the song, the song selection just clicks. The energy the music brings matches the action-oriented story and still gives plenty of Christmas cheer.
I’m not sure if Merry Little Batman will find its way into my annual Christmas movie rotation. It is clearly geared towards a younger audience, and children ages 8-15 will probably get a kick out of this. Fortunately, parents of the target audience who also have a love of Batman will have a good time identifying all of the references in the movie. Basically, there is something for everyone and enough Christmas spirit to satisfy one’s itch.
Merry Little Batman will be on Prime Video on December 8.