The superhero genre is now firmly entrenched in the blockbuster landscape. There’s no year for the foreseeable future where we won’t get at least five superhero movies, and while there’s diversity among these superhero films, they’ve still changed what it means to be a superhero property. Ten years ago, something as obscure as Guardians of the Galaxy wouldn’t have had a prayer, and now you can crack a joke about Green Lantern flopping and people will get the punchline. Teen Titans Go! To the Movies understands this landscape perfectly, and has a blast satirizing our obsession with superhero movies. Although the plot may be episodic and some of the jokes may be shockingly dark for young kids, the movie breezes by with such confidence and energy that it should be charming for the whole family.
The Teen Titans, comprised of Robin (Scott Menville), Raven (Tara Strong), Beast Boy (Greg Cipes), Cyborg (Khary Payton), and Starfire (Hynden Walch), are desperate to be taken seriously even though they can’t help but goof off and engage in various shenanigans. Robin believes that the best way to get taken seriously is if they have their own movie, but director Jade Wilson (Kristen Bell) says no one is interested in the Titans unless they have a good archenemy. The crew settles on Deadpool-lookalike Slade (Will Arnett), but can’t quite seem to bring him down, so they keep trying to find different ways to get their own movie.
The plotting in Teen Titans Go! is a little rough, and sometimes feels like a bunch of episodes strung together by an overarching plot about the Titans wanting their own movie. Also, since this is a kids movie, every adult in the audience will know exactly where this plot is heading in terms of Robin having friction with the rest of the team, Jade Wilson being untrustworthy, and Slade’s masterplan. But none of that really matters because Teen Titans isn’t trying to create a stunning narrative as much as it’s just trying to unleash zany hijinks for 80 minutes.
And the hijinks is where Teen Titans really shines. It’s kind of amazing how much directors Aaron Horvath and Peter Rida Michail just unabashedly go for whatever they can, and that the film’s energy never lets them down. At one point the Titans cheer up Robin with a song about being upbeat, and the lead singer is white tiger voiced by Michael Bolton. That’s the level Teen Titans Go! operates at, and it works beautifully. It’s a movie that’s never afraid of being too silly, and with that kind of confidence you can get Nicolas Cage voicing Superman and saying the phrase “explosive diarrhea.” Is it childish? Sure, but it’s childish in the best way possible.
What’s surprising is how dark the jokes can get. While some will point to certain moments of Teen Titans Go! as going too far, the dark comedy always works perfectly, and it flies by so fast that younger viewers probably won’t be disturbed by scenes such as the Titans killing baby Aquaman by throwing a six-pack ring into the ocean because the moment flies by so fast. But it’s also the kind of knowing movie where the Titans go back in time and yell at Bruce Wayne’s parents for wanting to walk down a street called “Crime Alley”. If you know superhero stories (and given all the superhero movies around right now, you should have a basic level of familiarity with them), you’re going to have fun with what Teen Titans Go! is dishing out.
Teen Titans Go! may not be the biggest superhero movie or the biggest animated movie coming out this year, but that has allowed it to come in under the radar and be an absolute winner when it comes to satirizing the superhero landscape. The jokes are sharp and wicked (the one that closes out the movie should cause consternation for some parents), and while one could argue that the movie is just an advertisement for the Cartoon Network series, it works! I now want to watch the show and hope that it lives up to the movie.