The Austin Chronicle

Teen Titans Go! To the Movies

Rated PG, 88 min. Directed by Aaron Horvath, Peter Rida Michail. Voices by Greg Cipes, Scott Menville, Khary Payton, Tara Strong, Hynden Walch, Will Arnett.

REVIEWED By Matthew Monagle, Fri., July 27, 2018

If you assumed that Deadpool 2 was 2018’s final word on superhero meta-humor, then let me introduce you to Teen Titans Go! To the Movies, the feature-length adaptation of Cartoon Network’s animated series based on the popular DC characters. Packed with an equal amount of fart gags and jokes about the modern state of superhero films, Teen Titans is a perfect bit of escapism for families suffering from superhero fatigue.

Life is hard when you’re a sidekick. Just ask Robin (Menville) and his group of teenage superhero friends (burly Cyborg, jokester Beast Boy, the perpetually cheery Starfire, and gothling Raven). Not only are you constantly disrespected by superheroes and villains – Superman and Wonder Woman laugh in your face, Batman ignores your very presence  – you’re also shut out of the superhero movie craze currently sweeping the country. Robin’s one dream is to be the subject of his own summer blockbuster, but it’s clear that the Teen Titans are too immature to warrant a super-serious super-movie. Unless, of course, they can find their very own arch-nemesis to raise their profile: a villain in the form of the deadly serious Slade (Arnett) ….

From the film’s opening credits  –  which openly riff on both versions of the Marvel studio logos  –  Teen Titans makes it clear that no superhero film is sacred. There are jokes about the misguided Green Lantern adaptation, jokes about Batman v Superman, even jokes about Richard Donner’s Superman movies (“You gotta save me from Gene Hackman’s real estate scam!”). That being said, Teen Titans has little interest in punching down at the lesser moments in Hollywood history. This goofy universe is inclusive of all superhero movies  –  good and bad, prestigious and reviled  –  and anchors its humor in the timeless good cheer of its teenage leads. Throw in a few genuinely catchy musical numbers and an Eighties-tinged Michael Bolton pump-up song, and parents will have plenty to enjoy during the film’s breezy running time.

But don’t confuse all those jokes about comic book culture as a sign that Teen Titans is only meant for adults. There are plenty of jokes just for the kids in the crowd  –  jokes about pooping, or silly magic tricks, or funny dances – that the film wears as proudly as its more "serious" jokes about Warner Bros. and Disney. As the sidekicks band together to save the superheroes from the latest doomsday storyline, the big message is that you don’t have to sacrifice an ounce of silliness to be an important superhero. Similarly, Teen Titans reminds us that comic books will never (and should never) outgrow their younger audiences, too.

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