In 2003, Cartoon Network debuted the animated series Teen Titans, which was based primarily on the early 1980’s run of the New Teen Titans comics by Marv Wolfman and George Pérez. The series followed the adventures young DC superheroes Robin (Scott Menville), Starfire (Hynden Walch), Cyborg (Khary Payton), Raven (Tara Strong) and Beast Boy (Greg Cipes). After a commercial and critical successful five season run, the show was cancelled in 2006. Then, in a bizarre turn, the series was brought back in 2013 as Teen Titan Go! featuring the original cast of voice actors, but aimed at a slightly younger audience with manic, comedic vibe, and a slightly more “cartoony” animation style. Unlike the original series, whose storylines were very comic book adventure focused, Teen Titans Go! depicts the characters during their “off time.” Despite some backlash from hardcore fans of the original series, Teen Titans Go! proved to be another smash hit for the network.
This brings us to Teen Titans Go! To the Movies, the big screen debut of the Titans. The film was written and produced by series developers Michael Jelenic and Aaron Horvath, and directed by series producer Peter Rida Michail and Horvath. The film focuses on Robin’s overwhelming desire to have a movie based on him, after virtually all of the other characters in the Batman family get their own films. What follows is a series of attempts by the Teen Titans to get Robin his own movie, which includes trying to establish a permanent nemesis for the group, focusing their attention on the villain Slade (Will Arnett).
Teen Titans Go! To the Movies is a breath of fresh air in the DC Cinematic arena. Like Deadpool and The LEGO Batman Movie, it does not hold back in its irreverence of the comic book movie genre. It is choc-a-block full of comic book and pop culture references, so much so that a second viewing is warranted to catch them all, and even then some will only be caught by hardcore comic book fans. There are a number of very funny sequences, including a studio jumping Back to the Future scene, and even a cameo from Stan Lee. Like the series, it includes a number of sequences featuring different animation styles, as well as a handful of musical numbers, which has become a staple of the show.
Outside of the original voice actors, there is some nice casting here, including Kristen Bell as the Hollywood director behind the wave of superhero films, and Nicholas Cage as Superman, a reference to the famously unmade Kevin Smith scripted, Tim Burton directed Superman Lives film, in which Cage was cast as Superman. Arnett, who also produced the film, is no stranger to the DC Universe, after voicing Batman in both The LEGO Movie and The LEGO Batman Movie, and is great here as always.
While the film has its share of jokes that are sharp enough for older audiences, there is quite a bit of poop and fart jokes for the young audience members, and the juxtaposition of the two very different types jokes on the humor spectrum doesn’t necessarily always work together. The film is also a bit obnoxious at times, which is not unlike the series, but as each episode of the series is only fifteen minutes long, it’s a bit easier to swallow. The plot could have also been told in a much shorter film, if not in a special hour-long TV or direct to DVD special, resulting in a rather uneven script structure.
Because the film is considerably more story focused than the series, and concentrates primarily on Robin, fans of the show may be disappointed that much of the dynamics and interactions between the Titans are largely missing here. Elements like Beast Boy and Cyborg’s “bromance,” Robin’s undying love of Starfire and the team’s dismissal of Robin’s overzealous OCD leadership, which is primarily the focus of the series, are absent from the film. The Titans are really well defined characters, and that is muted here a bit in lieu of story.
Overall, Teen Titans Go! To the Movies is a fun tongue-in-cheek take on the superhero film genre, with enough immature and sophisticated humor to satisfy both the kids and grown-ups in the audience, as well a some top-notch animated action sequences. Unless you’re a hardcore fan of the series, or have little ones at home that have to see this in the theater, I would say you can wait for a home video release of the film. That said, it’s definitely worth a watch, particularly for fans of comics or the comic book movie genre. And fans of the original Teen Titans series will want to stick around for the mid-credit sequence.