Teen Titans Go! To The Movies (2018)
SHOULD I SEE IT?
One of the nicer surprises of the 2018 Summer Movie Season, Teen Titans Go! To The Movies packs a lot of laughs and action in 93 brisk minutes, and takes no prisoners in ribbing Marvel movies, DC movies, and superhero movies alike.
Great voiceover work from the principal cast makes this an easy watch. Supporting turns from Kristen Bell, Nicolas Cage (!), singers Halsey and Lil Yachty, and Patton Oswalt are really fun.
May deliver not only the goofiest musical moment this year, courtesy of an impassioned inspirational song featuring the inimitable Michael Bolton, but also may have the funniest cameo we have seen in a superhero movie this decade (or century, for that matter!)
This might wear out older viewers (i.e. parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents) who are tasked with entertaining the youngest among us. A bit unrelenting at times, you may want to sit back and hold on of this is your first Teen Titans Go! experience.
I believe we saw almost the exact same conflict, depicted here between the Titans and the villainous Slade, a few weeks ago with another Incredible crime-fighting family. Hmm. What was that movie called again? Maybe I’ll think of it later.
Though the animation and effects work is crisp and clean, the movie falls victim to the problem with a lot of domestic animated movies where you only have to stare at the center of the screen to see everything important. The peripherals are just not important. That grows increasingly frustrating if you become aware of it.
If the DC Extended Universe (DECU) wants to do something truly bold and set themselves apart from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I have an idea.
Make the Teen Titans an official part of it.
I don’t mean create a controversial television series that promises forced edginess and grown-up melodrama, nor do I mean those Teen Titan characters who were part of a previous animated series in 2003-2006.
I want these cynical, wise-cracking kid superhero characters, animated though they may be, placed directly into the DCEU. You want something bold, unique, and unparalleled – something that sets you apart from Marvel? There you go.
Can you imagine the fun in just dropping Beast Boy, or the syntax-challenged alien princess Starfire, in a battle, right alongside Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman, or whoever is supposed to be the next Batman?
Okay. Wait. That probably is a terrible idea. But certainly the energy and enthusiasm found in Teen Titans Go! To The Movies could go a long way in turning these DC movies around and add excitement to what has, with the exception of two-thirds of Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman, been a largely joyless slog of superhero movies to endure.
Actually, Teen Titans Go! To The Movies is the best thing to come along so far in the DCEU. And it’s not even really a part of it I guess. Go figure.
For those who have no clue who or what the Teen Titans are, they are an animated, crime-fighting pack of superpower-carrying teenagers, who are ready to launch their fifth season of “Teen Titans Go!” on television’s Cartoon Network. As I have quickly learned, they have a huge fanbase among middle school kids (and older and younger ones as well) and offer a fast-paced, supercharged world of comedy and cartoon action, while making sure younger viewers and parents and teenagers find plenty to laugh at along the way.
Admittedly, I have seen no more than 10 minutes of their television show (one half-episode) and I needed a nap when it was over. It was a lot. Like a lot, a lot.
Yet somehow, that same stab-and-go approach works far better on the big screen, where Robin (Scott Menville), the de facto leader of the team, is frustrated that, as Batman’s loyal understudy, no one has approached him about making a Robin movie. Recognizing that Batman (Jimmy Kimmel), Superman (Nicolas Cage, awesome), Wonder Woman (Halsey), and even Green Lantern (Lil Yachty) have their own movies, Robin desperately wants one, but no one is willing to make one with him.
His crew, consisting of shapeshifter Beast Boy (Greg Cipes), half-human, half-robot Cyborg (Khary Payton), alien princess Starfire (Hynden Walch), and skilled magician Raven (Tara Strong), decide to try and make a Robin movie themselves, but that goes terribly wrong. On top of that, Robin’s efforts to win over superhero movie director Jade Wilson (Kristen Bell) falls on deaf ears.
Soon though, they find a villain: Slade (Will Arnett), a Deadpool look-alike, who tries to convince everyone he is not really Deadpool, while trying to outlast and outwit the Teen Titans and secretly enact a nefarious plan to take over the world.
There are some wickedly funny and surprisingly dark comedic moments that make Teen Titans Go! stand apart from anything else in the marketplace. The countless jabs and teasing of Marvel, but also of DC’s fumbles and gaffes, make this a move that is endearingly self-aware. It is also a musical of sorts, with another critic friend (@BrianTheMovieGuy) joining me in the hopes that “Upbeat Inspirational Song About Life,” performed by Michael Bolton (!!!) can make it to the Oscar stage.
Perhaps most surprisingly is that, despite a storyline, at least in part, we just saw play out in The Incredibles 2, and a few considerable narrative stalls along the way, Teen Titans Go! To The Movies is a clever, topical, pop culture satire that wins consistently.
Not every joke lands, and the movie intentionally, or perhaps accidentally, frames nearly all of the action in the center of the screen. If you are aware of this, it can become quite distracting. Thankfully, the team of animators have lifted this off the television screen and made Teen Titans Go! ready for their widescreen closeups. Overall, the movie looks and sounds terrific.
A sense of mattering to those closest to you, and making a difference in the world around you rings through the mayhem, and co-directors Peter Rida Michail and Aaron Horvath slow things down just enough, in key moments, to get those themes across. Then, just as quickly, Horvath’s screenplay with Michael Jelenic is ramping up to breakneck speed, firing off jokes, action sequences, and visual puns to keep us rolling.
I am not kidding when I mention that this is the movie, from bell-to-bell, I have enjoyed the most involving anyone from the DCEU. With buzz growing for Shazam and Wonder Woman, 1984 in 2019 (and flickering optimism for Aquaman later this year), while Teen Titans Go! is not a part of the official universe, perhaps this whole DCEU enterprise can start to write a brand new chapter.
CAST & CREW
Featuring the Voices of: Scott Menville, Greg Cipes, Khary Payton, Hynden Walch, Tara Strong, Will Arnett, Kristen Bell, Nicolas Cage, Greg Davies, Halsey, Jimmy Kimmel, Lil Yachty, Patton Oswalt, Wil Wheaton, Stan Lee.
Director: Peter Rida Michail, Aaron Horvath
Written by: Michael Jelenic, Aaron Horvath
Based on the television series “Teen Titans Go!”, developed by Michael Jelenic and Aaron Horvath.
Characters created by Bob Brown, Arnold Drake, Bob Haney, William Moulton Marston, George Pérez, Bruno Premiani, Joe Shuster, Jerry Siegel, Marv Wolfman.
Release Date: July 27, 2018