Being only vaguely familiar with the Teen Titans, characters who star in a popular animated television show on Cartoon Network, I was afraid I wouldn’t know what was going on in their first big screen feature, “Teen Titans Go! to the Movies.” Turns out that background knowledge of the characters isn’t necessary to enjoy this animated romp. This summertime surprise took me from zero expectations to maximum fun in less than 84 minutes.
The tongue-in-cheek film lets its colorful team of superheroes fuel the adventure. The gang’s all here, including Beast Boy (Greg Cipes), Raven (Tara Strong), Starfire (Hynden Walch), Cyborg (Khary Payton) and team leader (and perpetual sidekick) Robin (Scott Menville). When the teens become jealous of every hero getting their own movie, they set out to find their own super villain (Will Arnett) with the hope that a big Hollywood producer (Kristen Bell) will take notice.
The movie is clever in a way that feels almost subversive when it comes to standard issue animated fare. It’s spirited in a way that’s rarely seen in movies aimed at younger audiences as it pokes fun at every superhero convention in the book. Describing this movie as the kiddie version of “Deadpool” feels totally accurate. It’s more appropriate for slightly older kids and adults as many of the deeper level gags will sail right over little ones’ heads.
While it’s unnecessary to know anything about the Teen Titans, what would prove helpful is an advanced knowledge of superheroes and comic book movies in general. The geekier you are about these things, the more you are going to roar with laughter. There’s plenty of rude humor (in the form of genuinely funny bathroom jokes) for the youngsters and a unique brand of sophisticated irreverence for grown-ups. The pop culture references for hardcore comic book geeks hits an all-time high with an abundance of clever Easter eggs that spoof everything from Batman’s origin story to deep-dive nerd stuff (like their choice of Nicolas Cage to voice Superman). If you get why that’s funny, this movie is for you.
The brightly colorful animation perfectly mirrors the bubbly yet satirical look at society’s obsession with superhero movies and helps elevate the handful of silly but toe-tapping musical numbers interspersed throughout the story. The tone is so all-around good-natured that you can’t help but have a great time at this movie.