Unless you’ve lived underneath a rock for the past five or so years, you probably have heard of Teen Titans Go!, the comedic spinoff to the Teen Titans animated series of the mid-2000’s. And if you’ve spent even a second on Facebook or online forums that discuss modern animation, you’re also probably aware of the rampant hate directed at the spinoff. The general criticism is that Go! ignores its characters’ depth from the original series and instead paints them as morons who spend more time goofing off than saving the world. In truth, that’s more or less the point of the series, so it’s not like this is any sort of revelation. While the new show is a hit with children, fans of the original series simply were disheartened to see the mature characters they loved turned into unrecognizable chibis and thrown into a series that relies heavily on potty humor and lunacy. After watching Teen Titans Go! To the Movies (To the Movies), I can safely say that those concerns . . .
. . . are just as justified with the show’s cinema debut. But that’s okay.
To the Movies is not deaf. It knows what millennials think of its source material. And it absolutely runs with it as the main foundation of the plot. The premise of the movie is that superhero movies are dominating the cinema world. Any superhero worth their spandex has a movie. As Robin (Scott Menville) puts it, having a movie is the only way to be seen as a real hero in today’s age. Accordingly, the Teen Titans (consisting of DC Comics standouts Robin, Cyborg, Beast Boy, Raven, and Starfire) are bummed that they have yet to achieve such stardom. Major superheroes like Superman, Wonder Woman, and Green Lantern look down on the Teen Titans, seeing them as nothing more than goofs who never actually do anything heroic. The Titans don’t help their case, as they spend a majority of the first-half of the movie cracking fart jokes and blasting air horn noises — not exactly superhero material. Robin, the most dejected out of all the Titans that they aren’t being taken seriously, decides they need to find themselves an arch-nemesis, which will guarantee a movie deal from famous filmmaker Jade Wilson (Kristen Bell). DC villain Slade (Will Arnett) just so happens to fit that bill, conveniently engaging in an evil plot and lacking any attached superhero rival.
Even with the Titans’ faulty logic (which is nothing compared to other logic leaps made over the course of the movie), the driving force of the movie is compelling enough in its own right. And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t wish to see this plot slapped onto a more mature take on the Teen Titans. It’s a solid core plot that provides opportunities for character development for the Titans. And while Robin does undergo a character arc over the course of the movie, much of the potential of this narrative is sadly wasted on jokes, the interchangeableness of the other Titans, and overly-convenient plot beats that ultimately turn this movie into a kid-friendly Deadpool.
In not worrying about the gravity of its plot or characters, To the Movies is free to go all-in on antics. While only a few jokes made me chuckle, that is more than I can say about most animated movies nowadays. However, the kids in the theater were absolutely roaring with laughter, so I think the movie was in fact doing something right, at least for its target audience (which millennials need to understand, they are not). Because To the Movies essentially tells you not to expect introspection or heavy drama by virtue of its own self-awareness, it then becomes more tolerable when the movie doesn’t deliver on those fronts. To the Movies makes no excuses, and it is perfectly content to indulge in childish humor at the expense of nuanced storytelling, not even trying for the juggling act so many other animated movies fail at in that regard. Not every joke lands, and some are much more eyeroll-inducing than others and probably should have been cut in a stricter editing process (there’s a poop joke that drags on for almost a full minute), but all in all, the humor remained wacky enough for kids to enjoy and meta enough for more mature audiences to at least crack a few smiles.
In terms of the animation itself, it is a bit disappointing to see the majority of the movie utilize the standard style of the television show. While this choice might seem obvious, it feels like the movie could stood out more had it opted to go a little more dynamic with its big screen debut. Action choreography, character models, and settings are all fine. But it does at times just feel like a tv-movie was slapped onto the big screen. (Honestly that’s probably what this should have been, though the impact of its narrative would have been diminished.). The movie does invoke some different art styles for some of its musical numbers and a dream sequence, which are all very much appreciated — it’s just a shame the rest of the movie relies on the show’s somewhat flat style.
All in all, I’ve certainly seen worse animated feature films. And if To the Movies tried to take itself seriously while attempting to maintain its comedic nature, I can almost guarantee the movie would have ended up further down in the trash heap. The saving grace of this movie is a double-edged sword. Because it doesn’t take its content seriously and is self-aware of just how idiotic its being at times, it lowers expectations and basically lets you know what you’re in for ahead of time, which is just plain old silliness, or as the Titans put it, shenanigans. I can’t help but wish the movie did treat its narrative with more gravity, as there was honestly a lot of potential with Robin’s character arc and how the other Titans might have responded to it, but in the end, the movie speeds the former along and ignores the latter for the sake of moving on to the next set of jokes (and staying within a certain runtime). If you don’t mind your kids being exposed to obnoxiously extended fart or poop jokes, take them to see this. They’ll love it. But if you’re an adult and aren’t already aware of what you’re getting into, you may very well end up like the couple that sat in front of me — irritated and bored to the point of leaving halfway through.
Teen Titans Go! To the Movies
- Narrative is timely given modern cinema trends
- Musical numbers are fun
- Fun for kids
- Fails to capitalize on a strong narrative
- Relies on potty humor
- Cyborg, Beast Boy, Starfire, and Raven are practically interchangeable
- Some segments feel like they should have been removed from the final cut
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