TEEN TITANS GO! TO THE MOVIES Review: Metahuman Metahumor

DC making a joke of itself is the best flavor of DC.

If you aren’t familiar with Teen Titans Go!, I wouldn’t blame you. It’s based on superhero characters that were previously best known for a serious, plot-driven cartoon that was ended prematurely and without resolution, but this new iteration is targeted at kids who didn’t grow up with that previous incarnation, instead relying on fast-paced slapstick and jokes at the expense of superhero tropes and the DC universe as a whole. The silliness inherent in how Teen Titans was reincarnated initially turned off a lot of potential viewers, myself included, but in preparation for this review I watched some episodes of Teen Titans Go! only to discover a show that is entirely built around not taking itself too seriously, which feels downright refreshing when one remembers how gritty and dark the majority of DC’s recent film and television projects have prided themselves on being. (Ahem.) And Teen Titans Go! To The Movies keeps this tone in the transition to the big screen, making a kid-centric superhero parody that is fully self-aware and appropriately goofy.

Though all Titans are present and accounted for – including Beast Boy (Greg Cripes), Cyborg (Khary Payton), Raven (Tara Strong), and Starfire (Hynden Walch) – this is Robin’s (Scott Menville) story, as he bemoans not being taken seriously as a superhero because he doesn’t have his own movie. With the help of his friends, he realizes that in order to become a worthy hero, he needs to fight an archnemsis. Conveniently enough, Slade (Will Arnett) is seeking to steal a crystal to aid in his mind manipulation abilities (which hilariously amount to little more than party tricks like wiggling a "rubber" pencil), so Robin and the Titans work to take him down in a serious manner that will impress a judgmental movie director (Kristen Bell).

Though this plot is what ties the film’s gags together, Teen Titans Go!’s origins as an animated sketch show to be consumed in twelve-minute increments shine through, as the film bounces between various slapstick action setpieces and extended gags that exhibit a beloved fondness of the '80s and an irreverence toward the apparent self-seriousness of superhero media. Gags about time-travel are littered with Back To The Future references, musical interludes come with hilarious shifts in animation quality and style (there’s a Disney riff that just slays), and there are ridiculous cameos everywhere, from Nicolas Cage finally getting to play the part of Superman to Michael Bolton as a keyboard-rockin’ white tiger who sits at the line of psychedelic hallucination. These sequences are loosely interconnected by plot, but it seems ideal to be cut up with commercial breaks and tuned into at leisure, with only increased production value and the barest semblance of stakes acting as the justification for a theatrical release.

Like The LEGO Batman Movie before it, Teen Titans Go! To The Movies is first and foremost concerned with making DC superheroes fun again, dismissing the idea that superhero movies need to be for adults obsessed with fictional continuities rather than the children who grow up with these stories now. The metahumor is there for adults who know the proper amount of investment to place in these films (or at least are willing to laugh at their own overinvestment), but the hyperactive cartoon antics are there for the kids, and while it’s not the same as what we grew up with, it’s fun in short bursts of inanity. Teen Titans Go! To The Movies willingly and knowingly eschews depth and strong narrative in favor of moment-to-moment fun, and while the jokes don’t always land with consistent force, they come fast enough that the film succeeds entirely on kinetic charm. The kids are going to love it, and you just might too.