Monday, July 30, 2018

Movie Review: Teen Titans Go! to the Movie

Teen Titans Go! To the Movies **** / *****
Directed by: Aaron Horvath and Peter Rida Michail.
Written by: Aaron Horvath & Michael Jelenic based on characters created by Bob Haney and Bruno Premiani and Arnold Drake & Bob Brown and Marv Wolfman & George PĂ©rez and Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster and William Moulton Marston and Aaron Horvath & Michael Jelenic.
 Starring: Nicolas Cage (Superman), Kristen Bell (Jade Wilson), Will Arnett (Slade), Tara Strong (Raven), Khary Payton (Cyborg), Halsey (Wonder Woman), Greg Cipes (Beast Boy), Greg Davies (Balloon Man), Hynden Walch (Starfire), Scott Menville (Robin), Jimmy Kimmel (Batman), Dana Snyder (Atom), Lil Yachty (Green Lantern).
I am forever grateful to my seven year old daughter for falling in love with the goofy TV series Teen Titans Go a while back, and plowing through countless episodes on Netflix. The series, still going strong after 200+ episodes, are short, 11 minute blasts of superhero irreverence about a team of teenage superheroes who very rarely do anything remotely heroic. Their longest standing battle in the show is against Santa Claus. The show is an ingenious mix of the type of humor any seven year old would love – there are A LOT of fart/poop jokes in it, and the type of humor that I kind of love – as often following up those fart jokes are old movie references, etc. The fact that it also contains easily the best, most interesting version of Robin, best known as Batman’s sidekick (and, on this show, bitter about that fact) is an added bonus. I have very little interest in the new show – Titans – a live action show about this same team, which has decided to go the tiresome “dark and gritty” reboot route (Robin drops a F-bomb in the trailer) because that’s just about the least original thing they could have done. Besides, with Teen Titans Go – this team has been perfected.
Now, taking what works as a television series – especially ones where the episodes are so short – and expanding it into a movie is a trick that ultimately undoes most of the talented people who try it. Not so with Teen Titans Go to the Movie – which is easily the funniest superhero movie of the year (I am tempted to say ever, as it clearly outdoes both Deadpool movies AND The Lego Batman Movie, but I’m sure I’m forgetting something) – and if this year hadn’t contained Black Panther, it would be the best superhero movie of the year as well. It’s a fast paced, 90 minute comedy with approximately 6 jokes a minute, which land at a surprisingly good ratio that is also smart about why we love superhero movies, while admitting that for the most part, they’re all also incredibly stupid. In addition, it only serves to heighten my love for its version of the Boy Wonder. My god is this movie fun.
The basic setup for the movie is that poor, insecure Robin is upset that every superhero has had a movie made about them, except for him and his team. When they attend the new Batman film they see previews for movies about Alfred, the Batmobile and the Bat Utility Belt, but still no Robin. He and the rest of the Teen Titans – Beast Boy, Cyborg, Starfire and Raven – determine the best way to get a movie is to get themselves an arch-enemy. So, they set their sights on Slade (voiced by Will Arnett) and try to make him their nemesis. If they can defeat him, they will get the glory – and more important, the movie made about them.
If we’re being honest though, the main thrust of the plot is just an excuse – a way to string together a bunch of hilarious, interconnected jokes about superheroes. The film knows its superhero movies inside and out – it knows that Deadpool was after something similar, but with more R-rated content, and comments directly on that (I’ll say this – the jokes in this movie are more sophisticated and smart than anything in either Deadpool movie – even though I liked both – probably in part because this film cannot depend on explicit violence or a bunch of f bombs).
Because the movie mostly a joke delivery system, I won’t spoil any of them (okay, maybe one – the best sequence in the film is a play on Back to the Future, where the Teen Titans eliminate all the other superheroes tragic backstories – with horrible results). What I will say is that smart superhero fans will love the film – and even those who has grown more than a little tired of the genre. It works best though the way I saw it – sitting next to a seven year old. That way you can appreciate all the ways this movie nails its humor.

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