Wednesday, July 1, 2015

MOVIE REVIEW Batkid Begins
A Hero Rises In San Francisco, And He's Not A Giant

San Francisco mayor Ed Lee, Miles Scott aka "Batkid", with "Batman" at San Francisco City Hall on November 13, 2013.
  Associated Press/Warner Brothers  

Omar P.L. Moore/        Follow popcornreel on Twitter FOLLOW                                           
Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Friday, November 13, 2013 seemed like any other Friday The 13th in San Francisco.  For one, it was Friday.  It was the 13th.  What could possibly go wrong?  I remember this well: something called “Batkid” was trending on Twitter.  I thought it was a strange joke.  Hours later “Batkid” was still at the top of the Twitter trend list and globally.  "What was the big deal?", I wondered.

Only now, years later, “Batkid Begins”, a wonderful new documentary by Dana Nachman, puts it all in perspective for me.  Five-year-old Miles Scott, a Leukemia survivor in remission, was hero for a sunny Friday courtesy of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, as he emulated his favorite superhero for several hours to save San Francisco’s bacon from The Riddler and Penguin.  "Batkid Begins" tracks the preparation, organization and worldwide love poured out in support of a child’s dream come true.

The planning, fervor and build-up to the staged event in San Francisco, as well as “Batkid Begins” overall, is infectious and engaging.  This film moved me and filled me with unbridled joy and warmth.  Every parent watching "Batkid Begins" will enjoy it. And every child watching will smile.  Maybe they will also yearn to be a superhero too.  Ms. Nachman’s documentary is a keen reminder of the positive things human beings can accomplish when their hearts desire to.  As I watched I couldn’t help thinking, “why on earth can’t we do this more often for each other?”

In an era where reality TV dominates and trumpets self-centered, egotistical personalities and celebrities, “Batkid Begins” is the perfect antidote on the big screen. The celebration of unity, teamwork and innocence, qualities often scoffed at by cynics, is front and center.  Adults play Batman.  San Francisco police chief Greg Suhr plays Gotham City alarmist.  And the City itself plays cheerleader, in crowds bigger than those for the San Francisco Giants World Series-winning parades.  The cumulative effect is uplifting theater.  “Batkid Begins” is the kind of entertainment that lifts your spirits and nourishes your heart.

To make a special day happen for their son, Miles’ parents cede the stage and MAW Bay Area Executive Director Patricia Wilson does the rest.  She is positive, self-deprecating, hands-on and relentless.  Ms. Wilson is a hero in her own right, and one you can't say no to.  She's full of energy and passion as she works hard with her team throwing out ideas and implementing them in very short order.  Ms. Wilson’s energy vastly dwarfs that of anyone who appears in “Batkid Begins”.

By contrast, Miles looks worn out at one point during his lunch at The Cheesecake Factory.  It feels like he's literally been run ragged.  It looks as if all the celebratory fever is a little too much for Miles.  Can his body survive this criss-crossing of San Francisco just nine months removed from the end of his chemotherapy?  We get the answer loud and clear. 

Life-sized comic-book heroism on the big screen never looked better. “Batkid Begins” is the summer’s revelation.  And this fresh, lively film is better than many of the Hollywood superhero films of the last few years. 

It is rare these days to see a film of any kind that embraces humanity and the power of giving so authentically.  “Batkid Begins” is both escapist and inescapable, showing us that sometimes the world isn’t always as bad or as terrifying as we’re told.  I’m glad that in her directing Ms. Nachman didn’t prod and force this documentary.  In her capable hands it plays naturally and organically.  It eloquently sells itself.  “Batkid Begins” is memorable -- an affectionate gift.

“Batkid Begins” is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association Of America for some mild thematic material.  The film’s running time is one hour and 27 minutes.

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