'Teen Titans Go! To the Movies': Film Review

Funnier and smarter than you'd expect.
7/27/2018

The animated characters make their first feature film appearance in this big-screen version of the popular Cartoon Network TV show.

It's no small compliment to say that the feature film derived from Teen Titans Go!, a popular children's animated series, often proves far more enjoyable than the grown-up superhero blockbusters it spoofs. Although obviously geared to the small fry who will no doubt eat it up, Teen Titans Go! To the Movies will provide many laughs for their adult chaperones as well. The modest animated feature is a definite boost to the DC Comics film universe.

Like the Cartoon Network show that inspired it, the film depicts the adventures of its titular teen heroes, including Beast Boy (Greg Cipes), Robin (Scott Menville), Cyborg (Khary Payton), Raven (Tara Strong) and Starfire (Hynden Walch). The story revolves around the efforts of the group, disappointed over not having starred in a superhero movie of their own, attempting to rectify the situation by convincing a famed Hollywood director (Kristen Bell) to develop one for them. Complicating their plans is the dastardly villain Slade (the ubiquitous Will Arnett) and his scheme to conquer the world.

The storyline is only slightly less rudimentary than the Saturday morning TV-level animation, but it all serves as an effective vehicle for some very funny gags inspired by comic book movies, beginning with the clever spoofing of Marvel films' opening graphics. Sure, the screenplay by Michael Jelenic and Aaron Horvath includes the requisite fart and poop jokes, which elicited hearty guffaws from the youngsters who had been shoehorned into the press screening. But it also features enough smart meta-humor to make the proceedings go down easy.

The Marvel films provide plenty of material for the gags, from the cameo appearance by an animated Stan Lee to an appearance by the Guardians of the Galaxy, which prompts one character to point out, "That's a different superhero universe!" Some of the more amusing running gags include Slade constantly being constantly mistaken for Deadpool, much to his annoyance; the need for villainous characters to have names that are fun to intone in dramatic fashion; and the endless recycling of origin stories. The proceedings are frequently interrupted by catchy musical numbers, such as one introduced as an "upbeat inspirational song about life."

One of the funnier segments concerns Robin's disgruntlement about not being given his own feature film spinoff, especially considering that among the future ones being heavily promoted are movies starring the Batmobile and Alfred the butler (he's billed as "The Ultimate Grime Fighter"). Comic book movie aficionados will also appreciate the in-joke of Nicolas Cage voicing Superman; the actor had once been attached to a Tim Burton project about the caped superhero. Among the other celebrities making vocal contributions are Halsey as Wonder Woman, Lil Yachty as Green Lantern (the comment about that character's ill-fated movie is priceless) and Jimmy Kimmel, of all people, as Batman. The film doesn't limit itself to genre references but also includes random pop-culture gags as well, such as an inspired takeoff on The Lion King.

Considering the somberness that afflicts so many DC universe releases, the tongue-in-cheek, albeit admittedly juvenile humor of Teen Titans Go! To the Movies should come as a welcome relief to fans.

Production companies: Warner Bros. Animation, DC Entertainment
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Cast: Greg Cipes, Scott Menville, Khary Payton, Tara Strong, Hynden Walch, Will Arnett, Kristen Bell, Nicolas Cage, Halsey, Greg Davies, Jimmy Kimmel, Lil Yachty, Dana Snyder
Directors: Peter Rida Michail, Aaron Horvath
Screenwriters: Michael Jelenic, Aaron Horvath
Producers: Aaron Horvath, Michael Jelenic, Peggy Regan, Peter Rida Michail, Will Arnett
Executive producer: Sam Register
Composer: Jared Faber

Rated PG, 92 minutes