It only takes 4 minutes for the first fart joke to arrive in Teen Titans Go! To the Movies.That’s followed by a repetitive, “Ninja Rap”-esque title song where the Titans – Robin, Starfire, Raven, Cyborg, and Beast Boy – introduce themselves in the silliest way possible. (Here’s Starfire’s description of herself: “The Star, the Fire, the live, the wire, the alien princess in my alien attire.”) Soon thereafter, the Titans mock the Green Lantern movie and attend the premiere of Batman Again, which is preceded by trailers for individual movies about Batman’s butler, car, and even his utility belt, all of which serves to set off an existential crisis in Robin, who so desperately wants his own superhero movie.
In other word – this has everything you’d want from a Teen Titans Go! movie!
There’s immature jokes aplenty. Catchy songs seem to arrive every 6 minutes. And the aim to be a PG Deadpool, taking a sledgehammer to superhero conventions while at the same oddly upholding them, is completely unmistakable. The question is how many people actually care for this style of humor.
Ever since its 2013 premiere inception, Teen Titans Go! has been a point of contention among comic book and animation nerds. Animators Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic took the beloved, gritty, anime-inspired Teen Titans series which ran for 5 seasons and spawned a direct-to-DVD movie a decade earlier and turned it into something far more kid-friendly, over-the-top, and satirical all while using the same exact characters and voice actors (Greg Cipes, Scott Menville, Khary Payton, Tara Strong, Hynden Walch). The two Teen Titans shows are technically connected, yet they could not be more different. Understandably, that’s going to cause some friction.
Horvath and Jelenic chose to incorporate that friction into the show, creating several episodes in which a TV-obsessed supervillain calls the Titans out for their perceived crimes against the fans and quality storytelling. Thus, Teen Titans Go!, which has somehow aired over 200 11-minute episodes over just 4 seasons, grew to wear the criticisms of it like a badge.
They even did their own Mean Tweets segment to promote the movie:
And made a Justice League parody poster:
That hilarious self-own now forms the core of Teen Titans Go! To the Movies, which devotes roughly 90 minutes to justifying why exactly these Titans are so impossibly goofy and why that’s totally okay. As per the plot of many an individual episode, Robin is forced to reconcile his desire for mainstream respectability among his peers, represented here by his dogged pursuit of getting his own movie, with his love for his goofster friends who just want to have fun.
It gets a bit repetitive, which should be entirely expected whenever an 11-minute cartoon series is given a feature-length film (see also: Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters). Moreover, there is a completely anarchic, anything-goes energy and attitude in the first half of the film (there are time travelling tricycles scored to the Back to the Future theme!) which eventually wavers once the script finally gets around to turning into a superhero movie with an evil villain (Will Arnett’s Slade Wilson), his big plan, and a world-threatening third act.
As such, it feels a bit like Horvath and Jelenic were so excited to have their own movie their barthed out all of their best ideas (and songs) in the first 45 minutes and were then left with, “What happens next? I dunno. There’s a doomsday device that’s actually just, like, Netflix or something?” Or, to be fair, it might simply be they so overloaded the script with absurdist gags in the first half that when the more serious second half arrives it creates an odd energy imbalance they didn’t anticipate.
Not that I’m complaining, though. Teen Titans GO! to the Movies is still the most fun I’ve had at the movies all year. My niece laughed all the way through. My nephew danced in his seat the whole time. One little girl in the row in front of us wore a cope to the movie and danced with extreme joy every time a new song came around. Then, when she sat down, her middle-aged dad laughed quite loudly at the pop culture reference, like when Cyborg prank calls Superman and tells him Lois Lane has been captured by “Gene Hackman’s real estate scheme.”
All of that served to remind me that Teen Titans Go! to the Movies isn’t so much a movie as it is a party for the whole family and a treat for those either young enough or young at heart enough to appreciate plenty of silly humor and fairly spot-on jokes about the current, oversaturated state of our superhero cinema. We’ve seen dark superhero movies, funny superhero movies, and in-between superhero movies. We’ve never seen anything quite like this before. Not even The Lego Batman Movies went this silly, absurd, and musical. The closest comparison is Deadpool, and I might have liked this even more than Deadpool.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Your kids are probably going to love it, and you never know – you might find yourself laughing at its silliness as well. You’ll hate it tomorrow, though, because you’ll still be struggling to get all the songs out of your head.
RANDOM PARTING THOUGHTS
- Starfire’s saxophone solo on the roof of the Teen Titans car is one of the greatest things ever.
- How Many Post-Credits Are There?: 2; one in the middle, another at the very end
- There is a running gag about the Challengers of the Unknown, a Jack Kirby creation from the late 50s. The Titans joke about it being a super obscure reference, and they’re right. I’d never heard of them before.
- You bet your ass there’s a scene parodying Batman v Superman.
- Stan Lee has a fun, but also kind of sad cameo. Fun for the jokes, but sad because the audio sounds like he literally phoned it in from home, where he’s having all sorts of issues lately.
- Will Arnett, as Slade, does his best to NOT sound exactly like his version of Batman, but it’s hard to miss the similarities in his performance.
- Kristen Bell has a nice, smaller turn as the director of all the superhero movies.