The new animated film, Teen Titans Go! To The Movies, based on the Cartoon Network show, is a rollicking piece of superhero entertainment that never takes itself too seriously while entertaining both adults and children.
Since I was not familiar with the CN show, here are the basics: the Teen Titans are composed of five members who live on an island outside Jump City. Note that all acting credits are for voice work. There are Robin (Scott Menville), Batman’s sidekick; Starfire (Hynden Walch), a princess from another planet; Beast Boy (Greg Cipes), who can morph into different animals; Cyborg (Khary Payton), who is indeed a cyborg; and Raven (Tara Strong), who draws on dark energy and is from a parallel world.
The film begins with the arrival of a giant balloon man (Greg Davies) who starts to wreak havoc on Jump City. The Teen Titans battle him, but are somewhat ineffectual with their sometimes juvenile antics. Batman (Jimmy Kimmel), Super-Man (Nicolas Cage) and Wonder Woman (Halsey) finally show up and defeat the foe. They remind the Teen Titans that because the Titans do not take themselves seriously, no one else in the superhero universe does either. Robin, as the leader, is particularly taken aback by this criticism.
The Teen Titans decide to attend Batman’s latest film premiere, amusingly titled “Batman Again.” They are denied admission since they are not on the guest list, another snub, so Raven has to create a portal to get them inside the theater. In one of many in-jokes, Raven creates seats for them by sending the Challengers of the Unknown into oblivion through a portal.
As they sit there, sequels to Batman’s films are announced. Robin is convinced that he will be the star of one of them. Instead, the films are about Alfred, the Bat-Mobile, and Batman’s utility belt. At the mention of the last one, Robin commits a “Zoolander” error and bounds on stage and makes a fool of himself.
The Teen Titans go to see Jade Wilson (Kristin Bell), the director of all superhero films to have a movie made about them. She basically tells them to get lost. They decide that they need a nemesis, who they find in Slade (Will Arnett). They mock him for looking like Deadpool. He uses inane mind manipulation tricks to escape from them.
But after a future matchup with Slade, Jade becomes interested in doing a movie with just Robin. He ditches the Teen Titans for a shot at fame. But all is not as it seems.
The movie deals with familiar themes. Much like the LEGO Batman movie, the need for a superhero to have an arch-nemesis is one. The search for personal identity is another, as is the value of being part of a team.
The plot is so basic that it would be run-of-the-mill if it were not for the witty dialogue and the many in-jokes related to characters in the DC universe as well as to superheroes in general. The madcap pace means that if one scene falls flat, you are on to the next gag in the following frames. Some of the humor can come off as dark, but, like the picture, it is all in good fun.
One particularly hilarious sequence occurs when the team decides to go back in time and alter the origin stories of the existing superheroes so that they will not exist to make movies. They go on preposterous time-machine bicycles and divert Bruce Wayne’s family from “Crime Alley” to a more pleasant thoroughfare. They eliminate Aquaman by dropping a plastic six-pack ring in the sea to drown him. After their actions, they come back to a world ruled by villains and have to undo everything they did.
Another wonderful touch is the music. When Robin is feeling down, for example, the other Titans cheer him up with the aptly titled tune “Upbeat Inspirational Song about Life.” Other light-hearted airs are their theme song and the electronic sounds they create on the crystals on Krypton.
The Teen Titans as characters are a likeable bunch. Highlights include Raven’s deadpan sense of humor, the recurring gag about Robin’s “baby hands,” and the creatures which Beast Boy chooses to become.
This is the kind of film where, as an adult, it is difficult for me to gauge if children, part of the target audience, will get all of the self-referential material to properly enjoy the film. But then I can look at the picture as an action caper with a definite through-line and likeable characters, and realize that indeed kids would enjoy the movie on that level. At my showing, they certainly did.
The very last line which Robin utters is the piece de resistance of the dialogue of the film. In fact, I found the entire movie laugh-out-loud funny.
So if you need an escape from the summer heat, go and laugh with and at the Teen Titans in their first cinematic enterprise.
Rating: Three and a half out of five stars.
When the Teen Titans go to the big screen, they go big! “Teen Titans GO! to the Movies” finds our egocentric, wildly satirical Super Heroes in their first feature film extravaganza—a fresh, gleefully clever, kid-appropriately crass and tongue-in-cheek play on the superhero genre, complete with musical numbers. It seems to the Teens that all the major superheroes out there are starring in their own movies—everyone but the Teen Titans, that is! But de facto leader Robin is determined to remedy the situation, and be seen as a star instead of a sidekick. If only they could get the hottest Hollywood film director to notice them.
With a few madcap ideas and a song in their heart, the Teen Titans head to Tinsel Town, certain to pull off their dream. But when the group is radically misdirected by a seriously Super-Villain and his maniacal plan to take over the Earth, things really go awry. The team finds their friendship and their fighting spirit failing, putting the very fate of the Teen Titans themselves on the line!