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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Batkid Begins is an unabashedly emotional, uplifting documentary about the day in 2013 that the city of San Francisco transformed itself into Gotham to help a young boy's Make-A-Wish dream come true. Packed with excellent messages and role models, the film makes a strong case for the positive power of social media when it's used for a good cause (Twitter and Facebook helped make the event a global phenomenon) and shows how people really can make a difference. Discussion of young Miles' illness (leukemia) and treatment could worry some sensitive kids, and there are a few tense scenes staged for Batkid's big day (a woman tied to cable car tracks, fights with villains, etc.), but overall this is a wonderfully heartwarming story for viewers of all ages, with basically zero iffy content. (It's also a love letter to San Francisco; many local landmarks and businesses are featured, and you may find yourself wanting to book a trip there after the credits roll.)
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What's the story?
On November 15, 2013, much of San Francisco became Gotham City -- complete with the Riddler, the Penguin, and a Batmobile -- to help fulfill the Make-A-Wish dream of 5-year-old leukemia survivor Miles Scott in BATKID BEGINS. The young superhero fan from small-town Tulelake, California, told his parents he wanted to be Batkid, so San Francisco Make-A-Wish Executive Director Patricia Wilson made some plans and eventually sent out an email asking for a few hundred volunteers to help out. Word quickly spread through social media, and soon Wilson and her staff were flooded with more offers of assistance than they'd ever expected; ultimately, tens of thousands of people keen on helping Miles' dream come true flooded the city, cheering on the young Caped Crusader as he rescued a damsel in distress, fought villains, and received a key to the city from San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee -- not to mention well wishes from the likes of Ben Affleck, Christian Bale, and even President Barack Obama.
Is it any good?
If you find yourself on the verge of tears throughout much of this tremendously heartwarming documentary, don't worry: You're not alone. Like the massively popular 2012 short film Caine's Arcade, Batkid Begins is, above all else, about doing something nice for a child -- and since Miles is a sweet, innocent young boy who seems to take his whole adventure completely in stride, you can't help getting caught up in the emotion of it all. Much of the credit for that is due to the tireless Wilson and her partner in crime/creativity, Eric "EJ" Johnston, the inventor/actor/acrobat/former game developer who plays Batman to Miles' Batkid and consistently puts his young sidekick's needs above everything else. One of the film's most poignant moments is when EJ talks about initially dismissing the need for his own Batman costume to be particularly convincing, since he knows that everyone will be looking at Miles. But then someone reminds EJ that Miles will be looking at him -- his hero -- and it kind of takes his breath away, reminding him of just how important his role is in the day. Pass the tissues!
It's also great to see an example of social media -- so often ranted about and railed against -- being used in such a positive way. At some point in the film, someone refers to Miles' time as Batkid as "the day the Internet was nice," and it really strikes a chord. Seeing so many people come together, both in person and virtually, to support something fun and creative, is enough to restore your faith in, if not humanity as a whole, at least humanity's ability to occasionally rise above its own selfish concerns and think about someone else. Thanks, Batkid -- you really did save us.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the role that social media plays in Batkid Begins. Can you think of other examples of people using tools like Twitter and Facebook for a worthy cause?
What do you think made so many people want to participate in Miles' day? What was it about this event that captured the public's attention?
Kids: How do you think you might have reacted if you were in Miles' place? Did his day look exciting or overwhelming to you? How did the adults involved make things easier for him? Do you have any grown-ups in your life who fill that role for you?
Some people criticized all of the work and money that went into fulfilling Miles' wish, arguing that the resources could have been used to help many people instead of just one. Do you think that point is valid? Are there longer-term benefits that might not be obvious?
- In theaters: June 26, 2015
- On DVD or streaming: October 6, 2015
- Director: Dana Nachman
- Studios: Warner Bros., New Line
- Genre: Documentary
- Topics: Superheroes, Great Boy Role Models
- Character strengths: Compassion, Teamwork
- Run time: 87 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: some mild thematic material
- Awards/Honors: Common Sense Selection
- Last updated: November 29, 2019
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