TEEN TITANS GO! TO THE MOVIES
***½ out of five stars
Teen Titans Go! To the Movies is a film with a somewhat unique background. It is an extension of the animated TV series Teen Titans Go!, best described as a Mad Magazine-style satirical take on the characters from the 2003-2006 Teen Titans animated series, which itself is based off the popular Titans comic book franchise from DC Comics (owing much to Marv Wolfman and George Perez’s beloved The New Teen Titans run from the 1980s.)
The film’s narrative resembles The Muppet Movie but with superheroes. The Titans are jealous that every other hero in town has received their own big-screen adaptations (a nice commentary on real-life trends in contemporary cinema). Robin (voiced by Scott Menville) especially wants to step out of the shadow of Batman and receive his own star vehicle. The team tries everything to prove their worth from thwarting the plans of the villainous Slade (Will Arnett) to attempting to remove all other heroes from history.
Just when all hope seems lost, Jade Wilson (Kristen Bell), the most famous director of superhero movies, abruptly announces plans for a Robin movie. Robin is excited beyond belief, but Jade cuts the other Titans out of the film and drives them away from Robin.
One could say that the plot described above sounds like a typical “Hollywood rags-to-riches-to-rags” story used in many comedies over the years. Teen Titans Go! To the Movies, however, plays these clichés out in such an unsubtle manner that it becomes a satire of this type of story.
The Teen Titans Go! series has received a considerable amount of criticism from veteran fans of animation and superheroes. Usually the complaints stem from the perception that the show reduces the characters to stereotypes, that its humor is unfunny and juvenile, and that the occasional jokes made about its critics lack tact. While the characters as presented in this movie are quite one-note, there are still a few moments of genuine sentiment when we see clips of the amateur movie the Titans made for Robin to show appreciation for their leader and good friend. These clips have been created with actual stop-motion. Although the animation for most of the film is not much more polished than that of the series, we do get a few fantasy sequences rendered in different eye-popping styles. There are even several musical numbers, all surprisingly catchy, and even vocal contributions from Michael Bolton.
There are some obligatory jokes about bodily functions, but also plenty of clever in-jokes about superhero movies. This film shows Warner Bros. and DC’s willingness to satirize their own films, including the polarizing Batman v. Superman and the ill-fated 2011 Green Lantern movie. We even get some jokes that mention Marvel characters by name, and Stan Lee makes a humorous cameo as himself. The studio’s ability to satirize both themselves as well as their competition calls to mind the humor that was common in fan-favorite WB cartoons of the 1990s, like Tiny Toon Adventures and Animaniacs.
If the Teen Titans Go! series has succeeded in tickling your funny bone or you just want to have some good-natured fun at the expense of the current superhero movie craze, then go with the Titans to the movie theater. Hopefully, we’ll see other cartoon comedies and superhero satires of its ilk on the big screen in the future. And be sure to arrive early to see the delightful Super Hero Girls short “The Late Batsby” right before the feature.