November 15, 2013, has to rank up there with the day the Allies liberated Paris and Neil Armstrong’s 1969 walk on the moon as one of the happiest days in modern human history.
That was Batkid Day, when San Francisco became Gotham City, and when billions across the world were touched by an outpouring of support and affection for a good sick little boy.
“Batkid Begins” is an uplifting documentary about that day. Five year-old Miles Scott of Tulelake, California, had the wish of his short lifetime come true as a mayor, a president, police, actors, costumers and special effects professionals and even Hollywood composer Hans Zimmer turned him loose on Gotham’s criminal classes. Tens of thousands gathered in enormous flash mobs to cheer him on, many having flown in from all over the world to witness it. And billions followed his exploits and turned social media into the greatest love-in in recorded history.
Filmmakers Dana Nachman and Kurt Kuenne had inside access to that day, and followed up with interviews with scores of those involved, taking a sad story — the day Miles’ family learned he had leukemia — and following it through to the day itself, riding along with a child and a Batman riding through San Francisco in black Lamborghinis, foiling The Riddler and The Penguin and saving the day.
Grown men wept, but grown women — mostly from the Make-A-Wish Foundation — made this epic feel-good event come to pass.
San Francisco Make-A-Wish chief Patricia Wilson describes what her organization does as “whimsical.” They give a worthy child “a little of their childhood back” a childhood lost to a struggle with a deadly illness. But this wish went beyond whimsy, touching millions and blowing up into something that transcended its own excess. The rest of the world might have been shaking its collective heads at our distraction, at the lengths we go to in indulging one child. But they had to be a bit awed by it, as well, maybe even moved.
Eric Johnston is a hero of the piece, a one-time stuntman who gave up months to plan stunts, adapt a gadget, secure a costume and play Batman to Scott’s Batkid, keeping young Miles entertained and on-task on his big day. Everyone from Apple executives and online-marketing experts, to the police chief and every motorcycle cop in city (“I don’t need overtime. I’m still coming.”) jumped on board.
And no one — save perhaps for media people straining to cover this hot trending topic — lost sight of the bigger mission, to feed a child’s fantasy, if only for a day.
You can try to resist the emotions and charms of “Batkid Begins,” but this winning film wins you over without manipulation, without guile and without ulterior motives. If you can’t feel good about humanity after this one, you can’t feel good.
☆☆☆½ out of 5
Cast: Eric Johnston, Miles Scott, Patricia Wilson, Hans Zimmer.
Director: Dana Nachman.
Running time: 1:27.
Rated: PG, for some mild thematic material.