Recent years have seen Warner Bros. and DC Comics earn a reputation for being a gritty, serious, and downright bleak cinematic universe. In the DC Extended Universe, Superman kills, Batman brutally assaults his prisoners, and even Wonder Woman struggles to believe in hope anymore. Since the release of Wonder Woman and even Justice League (for all its problems), the tone of the DCEU – rebranded, Worlds of DC at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con – has grown more positive, more hopeful. And if the trailers for Aquaman and Shazam! are any indication, the DC superhero films have finally rediscovered their funny bones.
Teen Titans Go! To The Movies is nothing like the Worlds of DC née DCEU. And actually, this big screen translation of the Teen Titans Go! cartoon – a short-form, comedic interpretation of the early 2000s Teen Titans animated series, which itself was an adaptation of the long-running and popular Teen Titans comic series – is so unlike any other superhero movie, it might as well be the anti-superhero movie.
This isn’t to suggest the movie is anti-superheroes, far from it, but it’s a film that is so unconcerned with being a “superhero movie”. That’s really the whole shtick of Teen Titans Go!. Sure, they are a team of super-powered and vigilante heroes who fight against evil, but their biggest problems usually involve what they’re eating or getting home in time to watch their favorite TV show. Teen Titans Go! is an offbeat, quirky, and supremely meta exploration of the Teen Titans and their place in the DC Universe, and Teen Titans Go! To The Movies approaches the state of today’s superhero movies with that same attitude, unpacking the genre and laughing at it all the while.
The plot of Teen Titans Go! To The Movies is of little importance, but to briefly summarize: Robin (Scott Menville) becomes depressed when he realizes no one will ever make a superhero movie about him. He and the other Titans – Starfire (Hyndon Welch), Raven (Tara Strong), Cyborg (Khary Payton), and Beast Boy (Greg Cipes) – travel to Hollywood in the hopes someone will recognize their obvious cinematic value and greenlight a movie. One thing leads to another, and soon Robin is abandoning his friends in favor of his big screen dreams while the rest of Titans must band together to defeat their new archenemy, Slade (Will Arnett).
As a premise, the story of Teen Titans Go! To The Movies is an adequate tale that works best as a framework on which to build joke after joke. And there are plenty of laughs to be had, with everything from Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice to deep cuts, like the Challengers of the Unknown, getting lampooned by the Titans. From start to finish, the gags never end and they range from jokes worked into the detailed backgrounds (which are all the easier to spot on the big screen) to full on musical numbers sung by such musical stars as Michael Bolton. (For reals, he plays a singing tiger and it’s amazing.)
The small screen cast of Teen Titans Go! return for their first feature film and the consistency allows the movie to basically be an extension of the TV show. Suffice it say, fans of the cartoon will be fans of the movie since it’s more or less a super-sized episode of the series. However, being a film comes with a few perks, and the additional voice talent of Arnett, Kristin Bell as movie director, Jade Wilson, and Nicholas Cage as Superman are an absolute treat. And yes, it’s that Nicholas Cage, reprising his role as Supes from Tim Burton’s never-realized Superman Lives!. It’s the sort of meta-casting only the superfans will notice or appreciate, but it’s these touches that make Teen Titans Go! To The Movies as much a celebration of the DC Universe as it is a parody. There’s even an unmissable and hilarious Stan Lee cameo (possibly his best ever) to bolster its superhero movie cred.
The visual style of Teen Titans Go! easily translates to the big screen, with its bright colors and frenetic action making it the ideal film to hold the attention of the even fussiest kids. The humor, too, is sure to keep fans of all ages engrossed, kicking off the movie with a classic bit of potty humor and ramping up to a hysterical montage of the Titans meddling with superhero origins. Never before has the brutal murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents been so funny, epitomizing the weirdly dark alleys Teen Titans Go! occasionally goes down for a joke. Still, anything remotely too adult for young children speeds by faster than The Flash, turning these moments into quick gags that only the older crowd will catch.
Teen Titans Go! To The Movies is the perfect balm for anyone burned by one too many mediocre superhero movies, bringing to the big screen plenty of laughs and some unexpected but clever critiques of the superhero scene at large.