For the DC fans out there tired of being shat on by vocal Marvel devotees, Teen Titans is a welcome respite from The House of Mouse’s utter dominance.
There’s not a particularly good reason for there to be a feature film based around the animated series Teen Titans GO!, nor is there sound rationale for releasing it theatrically. The series is universally maligned by diehard fans as being a goofy, child-like derivative of the beloved anime-influenced Teen Titans series that preceded it. That show itself gained similar criticism upon its inception, so the fact that Warner Bros and DC Comics are preparing to wreak havoc with their TV-MA Titans series that takes the same characters into the world of live-action makes some kind of twisted sense.
The only reason this many distinct iterations of these characters even exist in the mainstream is a result of a pop cultural marketplace that subsists almost entirely on superhero adaptations. This new normal was skewered relentlessly in both of Fox’s fourth-wall breaking Deadpool films, but there was always something a little faux-edgy about that series’ humor that made its parody feel exhausting over the films’ lengthy runtimes. But at a tight 88 minutes, Teen Titans Go To The Movies replicates much of the Merc With A Mouth’s irreverent, self-reflexive tone but without any of the excessive profanity. It’s essentially a fun little trifle aimed at kids but written and produced with jokes and gags that only pop for geeks and obsessionistas.
Seriously, there’s a disconcerting ratio of obscure, winking reference humor to silly kid-level fart jokes in this film. The movie features the core cast of heroes from the animated series: Robin (Scott Menville), Beast Boy (Greg Cipes), Cyborg (Khary Payton), Raven (Tara Strong) and Starfire (Hynden Walch). Where other interpretations of the Teen Titans position them as sort of a junior Justice League, Teen Titans GO!’s version is more fun-loving and goofball. They let a giant balloon monster get away because they distract themselves by performing their own rapping theme music. They’re less an actual superhero team and more a living manifestation of child-safe meme culture, like if a Vine came to life to fight crime.
As such, the movie shows them in a simulacrum of the DC animated universe, one where Nicolas Cage voices Superman and Lil Yachty appears as Green Lantern. It’s a world oddly like our own, as each of the heroes is obsessed with getting their own superhero movie. Literally every character in the universe is getting a movie, except the Titans, so Robin and the gang enact a series of cartoonish plans, even including time travel, to be taken seriously enough for their own adaptation. (In a film full of ridiculous sequences, the least believable element is, of course, the director of all these big superhero movies being a woman, voiced by Kristen Bell.)
While there aren’t as many actual laugh out loud moments as a successful comedy might require, the movie is packed to the brim with so much audaciousness that it’s hard not to applaud. This is a movie where the team gets a giant, uplifting song sung by Michael Bolton about achieving your goals, while the team dances in space to a montage of Lisa Frank Trapper Keeper imagery. It’s a movie where the Titans have to undo their timestream meddling by ensuring Bruce Wayne’s parents die in one of the most darkly hilarious on-screen moments of 2018. It’s a straightforward romp that dually functions as a sharp commentary on the multiplex’s addiction to superhero stories.
More than anything else, though, it’s a good time. It may just be a direct-to-video animated feature being needlessly released in theaters, but it’s the kind of no-frills win none of the DCEU films have been thus far. For the DC fans out there tired of being shat on by vocal Marvel devotees, Teen Titans GO! To The Movies is a welcome respite from The House of Mouse’s utter dominance.