In 2018 it’s easy to underplay the fact that superhero films dominate the box office. Take a few steps and you’re bound to run into promotion for an upcoming film, or news announcing 17 new ones in development. That’s not taking into account the hundreds of think pieces floating around daily, dissecting them all. DC comics has gotten off to a slow start when it comes to quality efforts, at least on the live-action side of the spectrum. Teen Titans Go! To The Movies leans into this knowledge, and mercilessly mocks every trope imaginable. Hell, they even throw in a cameo from the reigning king of cameos! Though DC may be the main target here, no one is safe from the comic skewering the film serves up. It all leads up to what may end up being the biggest surprises of the summer.
Seeing that virtually every hero under the sun has a film, team leader Robin wonders what’s keeping the Titans from getting the big screen treatment. Their failings, it turns out, are twofold. One, they aren’t that great a crime-fighting group. (More likely are they to reminisce about food they ate, than actually stopping crime.) The second and more serious offense, is that they lack an arch enemy. Told they need to secure the former to see their names in lights, the team sets out in the only fashion they know how.
Their search for a potential main rival, is thankfully short lived. With the rest of the superhero world, including D-listers and their corresponding villains, occupied with film-making, one notorious mercenary roams free. Deathstroke (the film simply calls him, Slade) is the perfect match. Poor Slade just wants his chance to enslave the human race through “mind-manipulation,” but he keeps getting sidetracked by the Titans dramatically over-pronouncing his name, or calling him Deadpool.
Though many will be quick to say this is “Deadpool for kids” (an apt comparison), it doesn’t stray too far from the energy or wit contained in two other recent Warner Bro.s Animated efforts. The Lego Movie and The Lego Batman Movie, specifically. All three films have an irreverent sense of humor and willingness to poke fun at the failings of the mega comic book entity that help produce them. If only their live-action efforts were willing to do the same, with greater regularity.
Teen TitansGo! to the Movies is helped by tapping into the same magic that makes any good family film standout: the ability to entertain kids and parents alike. As bright and poppy as the colors may be, the majority of the (non-flatulence related) humor is aimed squarely at adults. A few beats dip steadily into the darker end of the pool, but prove nonetheless chuckle worthy. At one point, after a tragic accident, Cyborg shouts “I think his dad’s a cop. RUN!” Another instance sees a slight re-contextualizing of Batman’s parents famous demise. It would feel overly mean-spirited, were it not so honestly funny.
As with any animated feature, the film is only as good as the voice talent it boasts. In addition to the original cast from the Cartoon Network TV show the film is based on, Kristen Bell, Will Arnett, Patton Oswalt and even Jimmy Kimmel lend a hand for various heroes. Then there’s inclusion of one Oscar winner, using the project as wish fulfillment. After trying to decades, none other than Nicolas Cage finally seizes the chance to don the red and blue tights of Superman. He also gets to say “goofsters” three to four times, which is basically worth the price of admission.
Sticking to an “everything and the kitchen sink times infinity” approach, Teen Titans Go! to the Movies even makes room for a few musical numbers. Never outstaying their welcome, or falling into repetition, each song reinforces the film’s satirical core. An 80’s pop ballad “An Upbeat Inspirational Song About Life” features synthesizers, saxophone solos and Michael Bolton, bursting forth from a Lisa Frank poster. Robin’s showstopper “My Superhero Movie” slices the superficial nature of Hollywood comic adaptations to ribbons. The best of the lot is a Teen Titan theme song, which they themselves burst into, mid-battle. Not only funny (providing a villain with ample time to destroy a city), but its reprise towards the film’s end leads to a teamwork infused fist-pumping catharsis. As childish and over the top as the whole movie is, co-writers and directors Aaron Horvath & Peter Rida Michail put a fair deal of thought into each moment.
No, Teen Titans Go! to the Movies isn’t going to walk away with any awards (save for the aforementioned title of “biggest surprise”), yet that in no way takes away from the enjoyment it provides. It may not have anything earth shattering to say; instead, just a keen desire to entertain, all wrapped up in a story about friendship, being true to one’s self, and the dangers of messing with the space time continuum. While most will bemoan the prospect of one more sequel filling up future schedules, another film in the same vein with these plucky upstarts would likely be welcomed with open arms. It really is just that super.