“More jokes!” After D.C. and Warner Bros’ ultra-sombre film debuts left them with box office egg on their faces, the cinematic DCU has been itching, ever gradually, closer to the light, well-received populism of the Marvel house style. Justice League’s most human moment was a Josh Whedon gag; Wonder Woman swung for idealism and fish-out-of-water larks; the trailer for James Wan’s Aquaman suggests a dopey beef-bro underwater odyssey, while Shazam!‘s leans hard on the comedy, and seems to work.
The memo’s gone out: the sillier the better. By that metric, Teen Titans Go! To The Movies is D.C.’s best film yet.
The animated Teen Titans Go! has been running on Cartoon Network since 2013, and To The Movies spins its starry-eyed leap big screen promotion as a hyper-meta story that puts even Deadpool’s wall-breaking to shame. Built around a simple, relatable arc about friendship and self-esteem, the film is basically a 90 minute goof on the whole superhero movie trend. And it’s a blast.
The Titans are the also-rans of the D.C. universe, the adolescent, immature counterweight to the piousness of Justice League’s mommies and daddies. Robin’s their leader (voiced by Scott Menville), and he’s joined by Beast Boy (Greg Cipes), a boombox-sprouting Cyborg (Khary Peyton), alien-syntactical Starfire (Hyden Walch) and Raven (Tara Strong), whose deus ex machina portal powers provide one of the many satisfying running gags.
The Titans are basically losers and amateurs when it comes to the superhero gig, and Robin’s got a complex about it. Shamed by his sidekick status, and teased by Supes and the rest of the League, Robin’s obsessed with becoming a ‘real hero’. What have all real heroes got? There’s an arch-nemesis first, in the form of Will Arnett’s Deathstroke (sorry, Slaaade), but the most important object in a real hero utility belt: a big, expensive Hollywood movie. And that’s what Robin needs, one with cool effects and explosions and capes billowing in the wind. Dazzled by the sudden attention of studio director Jade Wilson (great on-the-nose naming), Robin goes all in on movie stardom, with or without his team.
Teen Titans Go! To The Movies is an anarchic, free-wheeling, tightly-edited belter of in-jokes, immaturity and catchy upbeat songs. No piece of D.C. canon lore is sacred. Seasoned superhero consumers will get a kick from the dense in-jokes; for the kids, bright, energetic movement and an extended poop joke. How can you not love a movie that’s got Michael Bolton as a keytar-playing space tiger? Conor Smyth
Teen Titans Go! To The Movies is out on wide release.