'Merry Little Batman' review: 'Tis the season to get silly

Bruce Wayne's son gets into the family business in this holiday special.
By Kristy Puchko  on 
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Little Batman rides!
Little Batman rides! Credit: Prime Video

Mashable's entertainment team picks our Watch of the Week, TV shows and movies that you absolutely must add to your list.

Seeking something silly and super for this holiday season? Then check out Merry Little Batman, a new movie on Prime Video that combines DC's Gotham gang with some family-friendly Yuletide hijinks.

Mike Roth, whose cartoon credits include Camp Lazlo, Regular Show, and Summer Camp Island, directs this daffy offering about Batman's 8-year-old son Damian and his superhero debut. Combining elements of holiday classics like Home Alone and How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Merry Little Batman is a sweet treat that's also a bit outrageous.

What's Merry Little Batman about?

Forget the brooding Batman of The Dark Knight trilogy or the psychologically damaged Bruce of Harley Quinn or the serial-killer-chasing vigilante of The Batman. In this zany iteration, the iconic character is retired, having successfully and single-handedly transformed Gotham from crime-ridden to cheery. Nowadays, he dedicates himself to parenting his son Damian Wayne (voiced by peppy Yonas Kibreab). And to reflect this more chill lifestyle, Bruce Wayne has lumberjack vibes with a bushy beard (as opposed to a depression beard), a plaid shirt, and the voice of Luke Wilson.

Christmas is coming to Wayne Manor, complete with a holiday feast laid out by a devoted (and a tad decrepit) Alfred Pennyworth (James Cromwell). But when a surprising call comes through on the Bat-Phone, Bruce has to dash off, leaving his son behind on Christmas Eve. Damian dreams of rushing into the fray with his father, and the gift of a first utility belt makes him determined to prove he's ready. So, when a pair of burglars pull a Wet Bandits-style home invasion, he springs into action, wearing a cowl made of a paper bag and a cape that's really a repurposed blanket.

However, once the Joker (Mythic Quest's David Hornsby) goes full Grinch, Damian snatches a suit from the Batcave and sets forth to grapple with the likes of Poison Ivy (Therese McLaughlin), Bane (Chris Sullivan), and the Penguin (Brian George). But can he save the day solo? Or will the Bat-Family need to join forces to save Christmas?

Merry Little Batman is a gleefully goofy adventure.

The Joker
Credit: Amazon Prime Video

If only the DCEU could let loose and have this kind of fun! Warner Bros. has allowed its TV shows to freely explore the bonkers possibilities of the DC library with shows like the chaotically comedic Doom Patrol, the unapologetically twisted Harley Quinn, and the ballsy Peacemaker. But their movies have a tendency to be torn between being oh-so-serious or fan-driven drivel. (Shout out to Blue Beetle for breaking a bad streak!) Merry Little Batman isn't anywhere as wild as the TV-MA shows mentioned above, but because it doesn't have to tenderly tie into a grander lore, it gets to have cavalier fun with the characters who have come before.

There's plenty of Easter eggs for DC fans to pick up, like a Talia tattoo on Bruce's bare chest and the Wayne family's cat being named Selena. Still, purists may sneer at Poison Ivy teaming up with the Joker for no apparent reason other than the fun of seeing her in a holly-themed costume. However, it's a jolting joy to see these figures, who are usually portrayed as nightmarish villains, become the stuff of Seussical wickedness. They're not scary, because while they are spending all their energy stealing gifts and harassing a child, they're also loud and colorful and ludicrous. The carnage wrought is cartoony, while moments of potentially worrisome violence — like Damian concocting a DIY flamethrower — are implied offscreen. Simply put, kids may not make the connection, but grown-ups will get the gist.

Merry Little Batman is a sweet father-and-son tale.

Batman catches the Riddler
Credit: Amazon Prime Video

Batman is frequently defined by the trauma that made him an orphan. He fights crime so no other boy will watch his mother's pearls fall like fresh blood in Crime Alley. Here, that dark origin story is alluded to but gently, so as not to spook sensitive kids. An AI version of Batman (known as BatDad) serves as a guide to Damian as he dashes about in his derring-do. This device becomes an unlikely bonding tool, as it doesn't have the inhibitions of its creator/inspiration, and it speaks emotional truths like they are just logic. In the end, Damian matures a bit as he also grows to understand why his own father is so fiercely protective. It's not that Bruce doesn't trust the boy, it's that he's trying to preserve Damian's childish innocence. Still, kids grow up faster than parents are ready for, so Bruce has some learning to do too.

Amid zippy action sequences, heartfelt moments, and the singing of "Jingle Bells, Batman Smells," Merry Little Batman is a rollicking ride sure to please parents and their wards.

How to watch: Merry Little Batman premieres on Prime Video on Dec. 8.

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Kristy Puchko

Kristy Puchko is the Film Editor at Mashable. Based in New York City, she's an established film critic and entertainment reporter, who has traveled the world on assignment, covered a variety of film festivals, co-hosted movie-focused podcasts, interviewed a wide array of performers and filmmakers, and had her work published on RogerEbert.com, Vanity Fair, and The Guardian. A member of the Critics Choice Association and GALECA as well as a Top Critic on Rotten Tomatoes, Kristy's primary focus is movies. However, she's also been known to gush over television, podcasts, and board games. You can follow her on Twitter.

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