MOVIE REVIEW: Teen Titans Go! To the Movies
“TEEN TITANS GO! TO THE MOVIES”-- 4 STARS
Do you know what’s silly? It is the notion that an alien in a cape with laser eyes and a spit-curl of hair can fly around as a do-gooder or that a billionaire playboy can moonlight as a masked vigilante that beats up people and jumps off rooftops. By their very nature, comic book characters and their fanciful heroics match the three descriptors within Dictionary.com’s second definition of “silly,” those being “absurd,” “ridiculous,” and “irrational.” Standing brightly opposite its dark and ultra-serious DC Extended Universe films and upcoming DC Universe streaming network cousins, Teen Titans Go! To the Movies shows how absurdity, ridiculousness, and irrationality can be exactly what is necessary to properly entertain.
LESSON #1: FARTS ARE ALWAYS FUNNY — Because this is the automatic first lesson when entertaining children under the age of 10. These jokes always work and smart writers know it. Check it off the list and let’s get back to the real show.
Plugging directly into the fifth season of its hit Cartoon Network animated program and receiving parent studio dollars for a layer of extra polish, Teen Titans Go! To the Movies amplifies the energetic beats from the teenybobber team of Robin, Raven, Starfire, Beast Boy, and Cyborg, played by the voice talents of Scott Menville, Tara Strong, Hynden Walch, Greg Cipes, and Khary Payton. If you are new and you don’t know who these clowns are and what they do, their in-your-face and catchy self-performed “Go!” song will fill you in early on while they work to dispatch a threat to their fair Jump City digs. Getting meta in a hurry, the topic of superhero movies is exactly what brings the Teen Titans to the big screen and also powers the surge of self-referential humor from writers Michael Jelenic and Aaron Horvath.
When Superman (Nicolas Cage, finally fulfilling fanboy dreams), Wonder Woman (singer Halsey) and Green Lantern (rapper Lil Yatchy) fly in to finish the job the Teen Titans started while they were too busy singing their theme song, the adult heroes look down upon Robin’s team as not really being real heroes or seen as important enough to matter. Why? There are two reasons and they conveniently fit this website’s niche.
LESSON #2: YOU’RE NOT A REAL SUPERHERO UNLESS YOU HAVE YOUR OWN MOVIE — When the Teen Titans sneak into the Hollywood premiere of Batman Again after being turned away from the red carpet, they learn that everyone who’s anyone, from Aquaman and Alfred to even Batman’s utility belt, has gotten their own movie, spurring public recognition and universal acceptance. After getting laughed off the stage as mere sidekicks, Robin gets it in his head that he and the Teen Titans need their own movie. Judging by the real-life popularity of the superhero film genre right now, he has a point. Name a non-movie character and a superficial Millennial that hasn’t tried to go into a comic store to read and discover the real source material will snear and blink at you like a dismissive cat.
LESSON #3: EVERY HERO NEEDS AN ARCH NEMESIS — Robin leads the effort to get noticed and gain the approval of the prolific superhero movie director extraordinaire Jade Wilson (Kristen Bell) in hopes to get their own shot at silver screen validation. Her expert advice is that the Teen Titans need to find themselves a proper villain. Like Chimera and Bellerophon and beyond, a hero is only as good as its villain. In this case, having a villain is a status symbol of accomplishment.
To go out and get a villain, the Teen Titans cross paths with a Slade, known to us big kids as Deathstroke and voiced by producer Will Arnett. The one-eyed sword-and-gun-wielding Deadpool knock-off also just so happens to be a master of mind manipulation (you’ll see). Hijinks of hilarity present “perfect plot devices” and hairbrained swerves as the sub-heroes try all sorts of adventurous schemes and measures across space and time to stop Slade and realize their spotlight dreams.
LESSON #4: COOL THINGS NEED TO BE PRONOUNCED IN COOL WAYS — Keeping with the angle of social affirmation and chiming in as a third requirement with the two above, everything spoken by both sides, hero and villain, better sound cool. Codenames need to be fun enough to say dramatically. That and you’re going to need a character-matching ominous catchphrase to punctuate your actions and sentences. Get creative because many good ones are already taken.
LESSON #5: STICK WITH YOUR FRIENDS — Naturally, mistakes are made and doubts are raised when Robin goes it alone in order to get his real movie. The turn sprinkles a little emotionality into the dandy danger of Teen Titans Go! To the Movies. By the time an “Upbeat Inspirational Song About Life” (sung by a certain recording artist animated as a white tiger playing a keyboard guitar) plays during a crossroads before the climax, new lessons like thise one become learned, relationships are fixed, and wrongs are righted.
The same goes for the movie itself. Teen Titans Go! To the Movies stuck with the hyperactive and harmless formula that got it here, skipping the temptation to balloon itself into something it’s not. At first, the manic speed and chicanery of these young heroes take some getting used to, but the movie’s commitment to its helium-light tone keeps the laughs popping. Similar to Warner Bros.’s The LEGO Movie franchise and its incarnations, the self-aware and referential humor is razor sharp and absolutely delightful. The playful palette and blissful buffoonery will charm old and young alike.
LESSON #6: SILLY EQUALS PERSONALITY — Teen Titans Go! To the Movies proves there is flat-out fun to be had in all things silly. That’s because silly requires personality greater than stoicism and superiority. That undeniable charisma is something lacking elsewhere on the Warner Bros. lot. Its certain success will demonstrate that there is welcome room for silly in this movie marketplace. Maybe Cyborg can pull up his mega-speakers and blast that fact out to studio execs and power producers.