The essence of the late Joel Schumacher was felt in Merry Little Batman — the 157th release from the library of Warner Bros. Animation, and the first to be released direct-to-streaming (courtesy of Prime Video).
The sappiness was on full display. An element of the story that shoehorns the comedic elements of the Batman lore. One that presents an idea that director Mike Knight and screenwriters Morgan Evans and Jese Ricci felt best when thinking about how the holiday season is designed to be a happier time within the calendar year.
When thinking of similar festive feature-length stories and specials of yesteryear, it makes one wonder where such a placement lies in the case of Merry Little Batman. While it is interesting to think of a potential animated feature centered around the lore of The Caped Crusader, it is a travesty to see all potential lost in a story that lacks inspiration and originality. No positive uplift in the mindset of Miracle on 34th Street, or the charm of Buddy the Elf who recently celebrated their 20th anniversary. Stunning, because even with the utilization of characters well known across the Batman Universe, Merry Little Batman could have taken the universe to newer, and creative places. Instead, as Violent Night was last year for the adult demographic, Merry Little Batman comes across as an experience overpowered by recycled elements made famous in the Home Alone series of features.
Why didn’t screenwriters Evans and Ricci take a deeper dive into Batman’s universe and provide something more memorable and fresh with a story tailor-made for the festive season? While there is nothing incorrect about momentary homages or constructing a story where its title hero is not the centerpiece, the design of the main character and their arc is what makes or breaks the experience.
Damien Wayne is constructed as a character who winds up doing more harm to Merry Little Batman instead of helping it. Unlikeable, one tries their hardest to provide the benefit of the doubt as much as possible. This is an adolescent who wants to be like their idolized hero, yet the frustration humor is so overpowering, that it takes any potential away from the experience. While Yonas Kibreab does phenomenal work with what he’s been given, it is with hope that the unoriginality in this 13-year-old’s performance is not overshadowed by his potential. It is with optimism that his upcoming work in Elio (from Disney & Pixar, currently scheduled to be released on June 13th, 2025) will highlight how gifted of a performer he is behind the microphone, and portray a role more fresh and invigorating that will advance his career rather than stall it.
By the time the viewer makes it to Merry Little Batman’s resolution, they will be more relieved that the experience is over than sitting back and pondering it. Unless the viewer is an extensive historian of the Batman lore, the trend says that Merry Little Batman will be lost within the shuffle of memorable motion pictures centered around the holiday season. Even the more adult-based Batman Returns, a movie released in June of 1992 centered around the holiday season, is destined to be more memorable as a Christmas movie classic.
Merry Little Batman was a tough viewing to get through. The consolation prize is the takeaway that this was a feature that provided jobs to individuals across a range of departments within the industry. In a year remembered for a Hollywood strike across two different guilds, it is important to remember that opportunities such as Merry Little Batman allow one to add experience to their resume regardless of how the final product turns out. As the calendar year moves forward to 2024. We take a positive look forward in reminding us of how those union representatives stood tall in fighting for their rights and their opportunities to work in an industry they love so much. Reminiscent of how Robert Kahn began his career as a freelancer of original material and what led to his tenure at Detective Comics. We wish these individuals nothing but the best as they move forward to 2024, and a Merry Christmas from Wayne Manor.
2 out of 5 stars
Merry Little Batman is available to stream NOW — ONLY on Prime Video