Roughly at the point where baby Kal-El’s bare bottom hits the screen, “Teen Titans Go! To The Movies” will have convinced you of its own cleverness. Directed by Peter Rida Michail and Aaron Horvath with a script from Michael Jelenic & Horvath, the feature film sees the characters from the TV series “Teen Titans Go!”—Robin (Scott Menville), Beast Boy (Greg Cipes), Cyborg (Khary Payton), Raven (Tara Strong), and Starfire (Hynden Walch)—hit the big screen.
More comedy than action, the movie attempts to balance mocking the superhero genre alongside finding its own place within said genre. Make no mistake, while the Teen Titans are, undoubtedly, played for laughs, there is still an evil plot afoot and there is still superhero work to be done. The brilliance of the movie resides within the jokes about the genre and offers more than enough of these along the way.
The overarching story finds Robin, the head of the Teen Titans, disappointed that every superhero is getting their own movie, but that no one is offering the Titans a film as no one see the Titans as actual heroes. The Titans try a number of things to change the perception of the group before eventually deciding that they should just go with a standard nemesis – you can’t be a famed good guy if there isn’t a nefarious bad guy you battle.
“Teen Titans Go! To The Movies” is at its best when it is waging this meta war against standard superhero tropes, and undoubtedly at its worst when it falls into them. Watching the Titans do things like try to become great superhero by stopping others from becoming heroes is hysterical. Watching them battle their nemesis, Slade (Will Arnett), is enjoyable but all too often completely standard stuff.
The movie is full of music, and utterly great when the Titans are singing about themselves or really anything at all. The pacing falters however when the affair segues into the actual villainy that must be corrected.
In fact, there is a significant portion of the film where the viewer believes that the movie decide to do away with anything resembling a traditional narrative and solely stick to jokes and asides. Although it would undoubtedly be criticized if it had gone in that direction, it is assuredly the case that no one needs a moment where the group breaks up because one member feels as though they are being held back by the rest of the team. This is made that much worse by the fact that the movie is nowhere near as self-aware in such a moment as it is the rest of the time.
Although the animation appears deceptively simple, the characters are two dimensional, it is wonderful to look out. The colors are eye-catching and the changes the movie makes during dream/imagination sequences is wholly entrancing.
Similarly, the voice cast gives it their all, almost forcibly dragging the viewers along for the ride. It must be noted that Arnett, elsewhere in DC animated movies, voices LEGO Batman and it is, at times, moderately disconcerting in a movie which features Batman (Jimmy Kimmel) to hear Arnett’s voice coming from a baddie. This, however, is a minimal problem and Arnett is able to give Slade a completely appropriate bad-guy-in-a-comedy feel. The rest of the cast features names like Kristen Bell, Nicholas Cage, Patton Oswalt, and Will Wheaton, all of whom are a joy.
“Teen Titans Go! To The Movies” will undoubtedly provide pre-teens with more than enough toilet humor to keep them entertained as the shenanigans unfold. DC (and Warner Brothers) aficionados will enjoy the plethora of inside jokes. The music is delightful, the animation lively, and at roughly 90 minutes it does not overstay its welcome. It is true that there are moments that don’t work, but on the whole it is well worth.
photo credit: Warner Bros