Back in 2003, Cartoon Network premiered a new animated series from Warner Bros. Animation, based on a superhero team from DC. “Teen Titans” became an instant hit thanks to its blend of intense action, teen drama elements and uproariously slapstick comedy, but after five seasons and a TV movie finale, the show was cancelled and replaced by “Teen Titans Go!” featuring the same characters (and voices), but throwing out all cohesive long-term narratives for self-depreciating humor. Many fans reacted badly, but the show ran from 2013 to present, and even got its own movie. Surprisingly to the spinoff’s critics and newbies, it was all good.
“Teen Titans Go! To the Movies” is an animated superhero film that, according to its tagline, will end all other superhero films. In a manner of speaking, it did. Because the movie is chockfull of references that do so many things to the superhero movie genre that it would make your head spin. It will highlight, it will laugh off, it will mock, it will deconstruct, and at the end things it will celebrate all these. When a TV show that has been lambasted by critics pining for its original form, releases a film adaptation that critically scores 100 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, you know there is something awesome there.
The basic plot of the movie goes: the Teen Titans, teenaged superhero defenders of Jump City, are seen as a bunch of “goofsters” by the rest of the world’s super-people due to not taking things seriously (a holdover from TV). This leads the Titans to think that the best way for them to build a positive rep is to get their own movie made. Yes, it is a film about superheroes trying to get a movie about them. After all, if Aquaman can have one…
With a little bit of luck and a lot of mischief, Robin (Scott Menville), Starfire (Hynden Walch), Beast Boy (Greg Cipes), Raven (Tara Strong) and Cyborg (Khary Payton) drive to Hollywood to meet with popular superhero filmmaker Jade Wilson (Kristen Bell), who tells them that the best way for a superhero/s to get noticed for a movie deal is if they have a memorable “arch-nemesis” to fight. Enter helmet-masked super-warrior (and EVIL villain) Slade (Will Arnett), who is stealing various tech components for his own diabolical plans and can hold his own against super-teens with the power of MIND MANIPULATION.
I will tell you now: I paused for about 10 minutes after that paragraph before starting this one, because I was laughing like mad at the memories. Seriously, the humor was remarkably good and finely balanced between jokes that children will get, and sly bonuses for the parents, and the people who watched the 2003 “Teen Titans” series. Everything gets ribbed on; shared superhero film universes, “The Lion King”, Disney-like musical numbers, “Back to the Future”, Marvel’s “Deadpool”…even Stan Lee himself makes a cameo (voiced by the man, even). Audiences will never be lacking for excuses to laugh out loud.
But “Teen Titans Go! To the Movies” also has elicits another response from viewers, in particular perhaps, those who have groused and complained about “Teen Titans Go!” for not being the original series it spawned from. Sure, even when the plot is minimal and it is all to elicit humor, there are still some themes tackled in the show – and in the movie that came out of it – that would give people something to think about. Not too deeply of course. It is still an animated comedy film after all.
And being a movie, Warner Bros. Animation is able to bring in some other voice talent. Joining the veteran voice cast, Kristen Bell and Will Arnett are the likes of Jimmy Kimmel as Batman, singer Halsey as Wonder Woman, Lil Yachty as Green Lantern, Wil Wheaton as Flash, and Nicolas Cage as Superman. That last casting may have been long-delayed fulfillment on the part of Cage, who was supposed to play the character in live-action for the aborted “Superman Lives” film project from the nineties.
Earlier we noted that the movie parodied musical animated Disney films. That comes in the form of several original songs played throughout. The two prominent numbers are “Go Teen Titans Go!” sung by the Teen Titans voice cast, who also performed “Upbeat Inspirational Song About Life” with guest vocals by Michael Bolton, who appears as a character in the narrative singing that song as background for the Titans…until they run him over. Comedy again, people.
In closing, while those predisposed to hate “Teen Titans Go!” for what it is may not be convinced to watch, there will be plenty who will be taken in by the visuals, soundtrack and comical insanity abounding in this film. “Teen Titans Go! To the Movies” is a solid standalone superhero film on its own.
Image screen-cap from YouTube