‘Teen Titans Go! To the Movies’ Review: Super Fun With DC’s Silliest Superheroes
Last week, DC Comics released the trailer for a new Titans series that will debut on the company’s streaming service, DC Universe. It’s a self-described “gritty take on the classic Teen Titans franchise” and features an ultra-angsty Robin (played by the platonic ideal of teen angst, Brenton Thwaites) screaming “F— Batman!” as he beats the crap out of criminals in an alley.
Just one week later, here is Teen Titans Go! to the Movies, which features the same characters and the same team in the polar opposite of a gritty take. It’s bright, colorful, silly, and full of big, broad jokes. It shows that while darker takes on these DC comics are more in vogue these days, at least in theaters, these stories are often at their most entertaining when they embrace their outlandish, four-color roots.
Based on the long-running Cartoon Network series, TTGTTM follows the exploits of the Teen Titans — Robin (Scott Menville), Cyborg (Khary Payton), Starfire (Hynden Walch), Beast Boy (Greg Cipes), and Raven (Tara Strong) — as they head to Hollywood. Robin, stuck for so long in Batman’s shadow (he doesn’t say “F— Batman!” but that is sort of his general sentiment), is fed up with anonymity. Everyone in the Batman Family gets their own movie, even the Batmobile and Batman’s Utility Belt. When will it be Robin’s turn?
Big-shot Hollywood director Jade Wilson (Kristen Bell) tells Robin he needs an arch-nemesis to boost his profile, so the Titans start mixing it up with Slade, who’s also known in the comics as Deathstroke although he’s never referred to that way here, possibly because Deathstroke is maybe not the ideal name for the villain of a goofy children’s film. He’s voiced by Will Arnett, who already provides the voice for LEGO Batman, and is now officially the modern master of overly macho superhero parody. Fighting Slade finally gets Robin the movie of his dreams, but it drives a wedge between him at the rest of the team.
Robin’s insecurities, and his quest to become an “important” hero worthy of his own movie, is an implicit critique of the impulse behind the live-action “Eff Batman!” Titans series, and the larger idea that a superhero needs to be bleak and depressing to have true artistic value. In its own frenetic way, Teen Titans Go! To the Movies is the cinematic superhero genre’s Sullivan’s Travels, arguing in a subtle buy convincing way that laughter is its own extremely meaningful reward.
While maintaining the look and style of the Teen Titans Go! TV show, the film version, directed by series producers Peter Rida Michail and Aaron Horvath, expands its scope with more action (a lot of winkingly self-referential, but some of it pretty thrilling as well) and tons of cameos from the broader DC Universe. Halsey plays Wonder Woman, Lil Yachty is Green Lantern, Jimmy Kimmel supplants Arnett as an even-growlier Batman, Patton Oswalt is a perpetually smooshed Atom (it’s tough being bug-sized), and Nicolas Cage finally gets to play Superman. (Admittedly, this Man of Steel mostly makes Smallville jokes, but beggars can’t be choosers.)
The more pointed commentary about superhero movies will go over younger audiences’ heads, but the more obvious message, that being true to yourself and your friends is way more important than being “super,” should strike a chord. And if it doesn’t, the sight gags about giant robot farts definitely will.
Although Teen Titans Go! to the Movies is ostensibly about spoofing superheroes and their hoariest clichés, the film is loaded from top to bottom with loving Easter eggs from DC Comics history. (The Challengers of the Unknown!) As a result, it’s actually a far more affectionate portrait of comic books — and a more persuasive argument in favor of their escapist pleasures — than any of the so-called “serious” DC movies.
Gallery - The Coolest DC Movie Easter Eggs: