It’s basically an episode of the show, but longer!
Making the leap from the small screen to the silver one, Teen Titans Go! To The Movies takes place in the same world set up by the long-running Cartoon Network television series of similar name, and follows a young group of superheroes as they go about their daily lives living in the fictional city known as Jump City. Led by the ever self-conscious and dangerously egotistical Robin (Scott Menville), and consisting of the shape-shifting Beast Boy (Greg Cipes), half robot, half machine prankster Cyborg (Khary Payton), demonic princess Raven (Tara Strong), and alien outsider Starfire (Hynden Walch), Teen Titans Go! To The Movies sees our protagonist head to Hollywood to – you guessed it if you read the title right – get a movie made about them! But when the team’s (mostly Robin’s) idea of getting the big screen treatment fails to catch any interest due to the fact that there are just too many heroes in the world to make a movie off of, along with the idea that the Titans don’t have an arch-nemesis of their own to help anchor the movie to, Robin takes it upon himself, and by extension the entire team, to find that one baddie that makes them whole. Enter Slade (Will Arnett), a mercenary assassin who just happens to be up to no good in Jump City, and conveniently doesn’t have a hero to stop him from completing his master plan. Now, with a movie deal on the line and too many heroes running around to help their chances at getting their fifteen minutes of fame, the Titans set out on a quest to acquire the most badass, evil villain this side of the Joker, while somehow trying to find a way to make less room up on the marquee for the old heroes and more room for themselves, all before the one thing the Titans fear most comes to fruition…superhero movie fatigue!
I’ll start off by saying this: the filmmakers really have some balls to make a movie based on a series that many fans (who are over the target age this show is going for btw) simply despise. Long story short, a lot of people blame the ending/cancellation of two beloved series, Young Justice and the more dramatic take on the team simply titled Teen Titans, on the fact that this show was given the greenlight to begin with. To add insult to injury, the voice cast for that more “adult” oriented series reprised their roles in this new, wackier show, and because of this, many fans were irked beyond belief even before a film based on the series became a thing. Since I’m not totally up my own butt and can watch films and shows for what the filmmakers intend it to be, I can honestly say that Teen Titans Go! To The Movies is an extremely entertaining, if not slightly formulaic entry into this long running series that everyone – save for haters of the show itself – should thoroughly appreciate and enjoy.
Heading into a time in which many people are starting to consider “superhero fatigue” to be a thing, Teen Titans Go! To The Movies was in the unique position to comment on the very nature of the industry, while at the same time acting as a very PG version of what Deadpool does so well: make fun of anything and anyone under the sun, this time aimed at the superhero genre as a whole, the entire library of DC Comics and all of Warner Bros.’ affiliated media, and last but not least, itself. No superhero cliché is left unused, no joke about the failed Green Lantern movie unsaid, and as the film progresses, plot points, character reveals and even parodies of other films become a joke in and of themselves, giving the script a sense of intelligence even when almost everything onscreen is stupid as hell. The show itself has always been known for its over-the-top and extremely A.D.D. driven animation and style of humor, and luckily this film is able to keep that streak alive, even if it might be a bit taxing to watch after a while.
Unlike the show which is only two fifteen-minute episodes jammed together to fit into a broadcast slot, the quick hour and a half runtime is a godsend considering a lot of this film almost overstays its welcome from scene to scene. Just because what happens throughout the script is clever and entertaining doesn’t change the fact that a lot of scenes are slightly padded to fill out the story, a problem that isn’t really an issue for an episode that doesn’t need to accomplish much, but for a film that needs to have that extra dramatic weight as well as elements that a television show simply cannot do, there’s a few spots where the shtick wears thin. Granted, if you like the show then none of this will be an issue, but coming from someone who genuinely enjoys the series in all of its weird, bombastic glory, there’s still a lot of tidying up that could have been done regardless of the reasonable runtime.
Being a big fan of the show (just recently finished watching every episode actually!), I do have to say that as fun as this film is, there seems to be a few instances where its source material seems to have gotten slightly lost in translation. Some elements from the series, while still present, don’t seem to be as prevalent as before, namely any of the teenaged hormonal character beats that made up a big chunk of the constant humor from episode to episode. Now before you go and think the things I’m sure you’re already thinking when I say “teenaged hormonal character beats”, what I mean by this is that the entire idea of any of these characters pursuing a romantic relationship is pretty much left by the wayside in favor of a more straight forward approach to the story, nixing a lot of the character relationships that the filmmakers must have deemed unnecessary in order to service the story of this film specifically.
I don’t know if I missed it or if it only happens one too little times, but Beast Boy’s catchphrase for wooing Raven is noticeably absent, and all of the comedy gold that could have been mined with Robin’s unreciprocated love for Starfire is just simply unaccounted for. While I do appreciate the entire reasoning behind Robin’s real desire to get a film made about him – he really does have some emotional and mental issues being Batman’s sidekick – adding this extra layer of character building would have tied in nicely with the entire story and the idea that these heroes need to prove that they aren’t just a joke, but a full fledged team with relationships and goals outside of the simple plot. This is an extreme nitpick, and isn’t really too big on an issue since the filmmakers purposely left a lot of this out, but the overall feel of this film is off just enough that it’s worth a mention, especially if you know the show intimately.
A worthy send-up of the show that it’s based on, Teen Titans Go! To The Movies is pure dumb fun for everyone involved. The animation is fluid and crisp, especially when the art style changes up for a few stand-out scenes, the storyline plain but effective, the action exciting and over the top, and most of all there are nerd references galore for those who pay enough attention. The movie itself might wander a bit and feel a little padded out in spots – specifically with all of the musical numbers – but it can’t be denied that this is an entertaining film through and through. So regardless of whether you’re a fan of the original series or not, there’s enough here to warrant a look if you have a few kids and a couple of hours to kill.