Review: “Teen Titans Go! To the Movies”

4 out of 5 stars.

It’s can be refreshing—and hilarious—to watch someone make fun of themselves, especially when that someone is a large entity like DC Comics and Warner Brothers.  It’s no secret that Warner’s attempts at creating a DC cinematic universe akin to Marvel’s in recent years have been the subject of much ridicule.  Certain scenes, quotes, and character moments from films like “Batman v. Superman” and “Justice League” have already been endlessly teased and parodied.  And they’re about to be teased again, as “Teen Titans Go! To the Movies” unflinchingly and hilariously takes on not just DC and Warner Brothers, but also the state of superhero movies in general.

This animated film is based on the long-running Cartoon Network series “Teen Titans Go!”, with cast members from the TV show reprising their roles in this movie.  And while this film is an extension of the series, you need not be familiar with it to jump right in and enjoy it—in fact, at the beginning of the film the characters all sing a song introducing themselves and their powers.  There’s the telekinetic sorceress Raven (Tara Strong), as well as the powerful humanoid Cyborg.  Beast Boy (Greg Cipes) can shape shift into different animals, while Starfire (Hynden Walch) is an alien princess who can shoot lasers.  And then there’s Robin (Scott Menville), Batman’s sidekick and the one who brought the Teen Titans together.  A battle against Balloon Man causes Robin to realize that no one knows who they are and the ones who do don’t take them seriously as superheroes.  While at the premiere of Batman’s new movie, Robin realizes that all the important heroes have movies, and he makes it his dream to have his own movie and prove that he’s a serious superhero.  So the Titans head to Hollywood and meet the director of all the superhero movies in the world, Jade Wilson (Kristen Bell), but they find that getting their own movie is no easy task—especially when the villain Slade (Will Arnett) starts stealing powerful crystals for nefarious purposes.

Teen Titans 2
Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, and Superman are among the many heroes who make appearances in “Teen Titans Go! To the Movies”

It’s important to keep in mind that “Teen Titans Go! To the Movies” is a kids movie based on a kids show.  So yes, there are a lot of immature poop jokes and silly story points.  But overall, the film is a lot more intelligent than what it looks like on the surface.  It explores a lot of common tropes about superhero movies (tragic backstories, arch nemesis, etc.) and about the state of superhero movies, particularly regarding the current oversaturation of the genre, and that only the “important” heroes get movies.  A lot of the jokes even have DC making fun of themselves, and it’s great to see these heroes whose live-action incarnations are nowadays so dark and serious existing in this crazy, colorful world.  The majority of audiences will latch onto most of these gags, like an interpretation of a much-maligned scene from “Batman v. Superman,” or Wonder Woman mentioning how it took a long time to get her movie, while Green Lantern states that it’s better just to forget about his.  But there are also so many references, cameos, and jokes that are targeted at the older geeks who are more involved in the comic book world, ranging from the laugh-out-loud hilarious to the bizarre and unexpected.  And while the Teen Titans take center stage in this movie, keep an eye out for the rest of your favorite DC heroes, including Batman (voiced by Jimmy Kimmel), Wonder Woman (Halsey), Flash (Wil Wheaton), and Superman, who is voiced by the one and only Nicolas Cage, finally getting a stab at playing this character.  If that isn’t enough to get you to see this movie, then I don’t know what is.

The 2D animation in the movie is, like the show, bright, colorful, and fast-paced.  It looks good, but one great thing this movie does is play with a lot of different visual styles depending on what the scene calls for.  I’m talking “Batman: The Animated Series.”  I’m talking Disney.  It gets weird, but it just contributes that much more to the humor.  There’s a lot to take in in some of these sequences that move by so quickly they will likely require repeat viewings, but again, there are a lot of callbacks to previous incarnations of these heroes that well-versed fans will enjoy.

While “Teen Titans Go! To the Movies” could be considered one big, biting parody, it does have a nice message of being yourself.  That, combined with some catchy tunes and unflinching self-deprecation, makes for a great time at the movies for young and old alike.

Runtime: 84 minutes. Rated PG.

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