Teen Titans Go! To the Movies Review
PG: Mild action and rude humor
Warner Bros. Pictures, Warner Bros. Animation
Dir: Peter Rida Michail, Aaron Horvath | Writers: Michael Jelenic, Aaron Horvath
1 Hr and 28 Minutes (+5 due to Lauren Faust’s DC Superhero Girls short)
Voice Cast: Greg Cipes, Scott Menville, Khary Payton, Tara Strong, Hynden Walch, Will Arnett, Kristen Bell, Nicolas Cage, Lil Yachty, Halsey, Jimmy Kimmel
Out of all the movies this year, I was least looking forward to seeing “Teen Titans Go! To the Movies”. I don’t hate the show “Teen Titans Go!” like the rest of the internet, for I have seen a handful of episodes which, to me, range from being incredibly funny and clever to being juvenile and annoying, the latter being very prominent. So when the teaser came in January attached to “Paddington 2” (the best family sequel of all time and my favorite movie of 2018), everyone had to endure this joke:
So yeah, I wasn’t eager to see this movie at all. NOBODY WAS!
And then I did and… and
It seems to the Teens that all the major superheroes out there are starring in their own movies - everyone but the Teen Titans, that is. But de facto leader Robin is determined to remedy the situation, and be seen as a star instead of a sidekick. If only they could get the hottest Hollywood film director to notice them. With a few madcap ideas and a song in their heart, the Teen Titans head to Tinsel Town, certain to pull off their dream. But when the group is radically misdirected by a seriously super villain and his maniacal plan to take over the Earth, things really go awry. The team finds their friendship and their fighting spirit failing, putting the very fate of the Teen Titans themselves on the line.
If you’re familiar with the humor of “Teen Titans Go!”, the film is faithful to capturing the comedic tone of the series but surprisingly doesn’t rely on the juvenile jokes as often. Oh yeah, the juvenile humor is sparse and instead targets the superhero movie genre in the most irreverent, meta way possible and it’s relentlessly funny.
Where plenty of people describe “The LEGO Batman Movie” as a “Deadpool” for kids, I beg to differ with this. I’m not saying “Teen Titans Go! To the Movies” is better than “The LEGO Batman Movie”, but it does exceed it in terms of the “Deadpool” for kids comparison. “The LEGO Batman Movie” mostly relied on self deprecation of both the Batman history and DC. This unapologetically takes jabs at everything superhero-related, the business of movie studios, and of course the studio they came from; it’s similar to what the merc with the mouth does. For Pete’s sake, they refer to Slade Wilson as Deadpool throughout the film. It is the same clever humor the show sometimes has, but translated onto the big screen. Even the casting is clever like how they managed to get Nicolas Cage to finally portray Superman.
Warner Bros. Animation (the studio that does both the series and the direct-to-DVD DC animated movies) upped the ante on the animation when it came to transitioning this to a feature film format and it clearly shows. It doesn’t just look like they slapped the same cheap style of the show on screen. In the show, there would be some impressive background designs from time to time by art director Dan Hipp. His art direction on the show is good, but for this movie you can tell that Hipp has gone all out, for the backgrounds are heavily detailed with easter eggs. Each landscape, setting, and item has a stylish and colorful comic book aesthetic to them which gives the film its much needed cinematic value.
Often times during the film, the animation style changes up for several sequences that are mostly for musical or nonsensical purposes. For example, there is an odd Disney-styled parody of Circle of Life from “The Lion King”. It makes no sense but the stylish animation put into it is incredibly visually appealing. What makes it even better is the fact that one of the animators on that sequence was Disney veteran animator Bruce W. Smith (creator of Disney’s “The Proud Family” and lead animator of Dr. Facilier in “The Princess and the Frog”). So in the end, there is a good amount of theatrical value to the movie in the same vein other TV-to-film adaptations do, such as “Beavis and Butthead Do America”, in that often times it would do something visually impressive in the midst of abiding by the series’ animation style.
There are three reasons why this was adapted for the big screen:
To tell a fun story
Get away with jokes that can’t be done on television
Because Will Arnett was passionate about making this
Seriously, Will Arnett (who is a producer on this) and his sons are fans of the series, and he really wanted to adapt this to the big screen. Speaking of which, one of the best aspects the film has is Arnett’s portrayal of the formidable Titans foe Slade where he’s as silly as our protagonist resulting in a lot of humorous banter between both sides. The Titans don’t annoy Slade like they do with their other known antagonists in the show, but instead he has a sense of humor that startles with their immature minds. He’s pretty much Don Karnage (obscure reference I know) where he is snarky and plays in on the fun but is still menacing when he needs to be.
For a series that is treated to where it's aired most of the time, every day to rival Nickelodeon’s “Spongebob Squarepants”, this big screen adaptation plays out very similar to both Spongebob movies. Similar to the first Spongebob film, their entire quest is driven on Robin’s desire to not be taken as the joke that every villain, hero, and viewers of the show see them as. Then, the humor is similar to the second Spongebob movie where it’s so irreverent, random, and features so many catchy songs. Even the climax is similar to the iconic “Goofy Goober Rock” sequence.
The film captures the best and worst moments of the series, but the worst is still present. Not all of the jokes are winners. As I said, “Teen Titans Go!” would always spend time having their episodes rely on dookie and butt humor — the movie has a number of those jokes. There is an extended joke centered on pooping in a prop toilet that goes on forever. But kids think that's hysterical and I can’t fault ‘em for it. That’s how the show drifted by, it’s nothing new or shocking. This movie aims to target both adults and kids and it works. Unlike “Hotel Transylvania” or “Ferdinand” it doesn’t pander to kids with dance numbers. I would rather take several poop jokes from 2D characters over CG characters dabbing, twerking or doing the Macarena.
Around the second act, the film starts to run out of steam to where it meanders around its narrative in order to tell jokes, but the humor is constant and moves at a fast pace to maintain your interest.
I tried to be cynical. I tried to be the uppity a-hole with this movie. I walked in like this:
but I kept finding myself doing this throughout
While “Teen Titans Go!” often times took jabs at the original show and mocked the fanboys who whine and moan about the comedic tone the current series has, writers and showrunners Michael Jelenic and Aaron Horvath surprisingly embrace some of the lore the previous series had. With the show being primarily for kids, the writers/creators made sure that the movie appeals to everyone and for the most part it does! You have the poop and booty shaking jokes for the kids , funny mature quips for adults, and then you have some fun action sequences for the fans. The action is very reminiscent of the original ‘03 series where they play an instrumental of the original series’ theme as the Titans actually start doing some superheroing. This will inevitably trigger a bit of your nostalgia.
Then the credits come in. If you are a fan of the original Teen Titans animated series and have been whining, moaning, and desperately clamoring for its revival since 2006, THERE IS SOMETHING FOR YOU AT THE END OF THE MOVIE THAT WILL LEAVE YOU GOING:
AFTER YOU WALK OUT OF THE THEATER! I assure you, you will not be disappointed even if you’re disappointed in the movie and also the fact that the live action series exists. It might just be the best post credit sequence attached to a DC movie yet.
Unapologetically meta with clever tongue-in-cheek humor that captures the best and worst of the series, “Teen Titans Go! To the Movies” is a hysterical satirical comedy that is fun for the whole family.
Rating: 4/5 | 83%