I think it’s best to say up front that I am not fully familiar with Teen Titans Go. I’ve seen a few clips and I know it is reviled in the animation community, but I’ve never watched a full episode. The show just didn’t grab my attention in the way that other animated shows like Gravity Falls or Star vs the Forces of Evil have. That said, after seeing the truly abysmal trailer for Titans from Comic-Con, I wanted to see a more light hearted version of the Titans. Plus, seeing the cast for this film, including that Nicolas Cage was finally going to be playing Superman, I was hoping this would be good. I have to say, this was a decent film, but clearly aiming for a very young audience.
The film focuses on a goofier version of the Teen Titans, this incarnation being Robin, Starfire, Raven, Beast Boy and Cyborg, more focused on singing songs and having fun than on actually doing anything heroic, to the point that they are considered sidekicks and no-one wants to make a film about them. Believing that the only way to be seen as true heroes is to have a film made about them, the Titans go to Hollywood to have a film made, only to be told that there is no potential for them. Following that, they believe that they need an arch nemesis, which coincides with the arch nemesis of the Titans from the 2003 series (I don’t know the comics so I don’t know if he has that role there), Slade (aka Deathstroke) making an appearance. With Slade on the loose, the Titans have to stop him to save the world and secure their own movie deal. Now the film works best when it is satirising the current dominance of superhero films in pop culture, highlighting how overexposed they are and how films will be made on pretty much anything. It highlights how even the most obscure characters are getting films before big mainstays and how studios care more about the films than in any legacy for the heroes being preserved. The jokes in these scenes work well, even if they are pretty on the nose. There are the obvious jokes like one on ‘Save Martha’ and one on how bad the 2011 Green Lantern movie was and some pretty dark moments, but there are a fair few jokes that kids probably wouldn’t get, such as using the music from Back to the Future in a time travel scene, Fred Tatasciore doing a Marlon Brando impression and the casting of Nicolas Cage as Superman. There are also a good few jokes at the expense of the Titans themselves and how goofy they are compared to the 2003 series. There’s also some pretty decent character work in the film, mainly for Robin, giving him more depth as a character and having him conflicted between his desire to have his own film and his role in leading the Titans. Granted, the humour and the character work isn’t anywhere near as strong as it is in say The Lego Batman Movie, but it is still solid. That said, a lot of the jokes just didn’t work for me, mainly the toilet humour, and there are a lot of moments, particularly in the second act, that feel completely pointless and, whilst having decent jokes, don’t really advance the plot or the characters, and the plot is insanely predictable, even for a film aided at a younger audience. It also harms the film that Robin is really the only character that gets any form of development individually, the rest of the Titans only grow as Titans, not as individual characters, it’s just a mixed bag overall.
The cast is pretty solid throughout the film. Firstly, it’s great that for the Titans, the proper voice actors reprised their roles and that the celebrity voices were saved for the supporting roles, it’s clear that the cast have fully absorbed playing their characters and their work as a whole just feels so natural, which you don’t always get with celebrity voices. Scott Menville gets the most work as Robin, showing the conflicting nature in Robin between his dream and the team, and his insecurities about the whole thing. Hynden Walch as Starfire gives a more gentle and supporting performance, Tara Strong is very dry and sarcastic as Raven, but shows she isn’t above getting more involved in the sillier humour, whilst Greg Cipes as Beast Boy and Khary Payton get some good comedic moments but nothing much beyond that. Aside from them, Will Arnett is pretty decent as Slade. He’s nowhere near as good as Ron Perlman at voicing the character but he does effectively show the intimidating nature of the character and is fun to listen to, although he does end up being fairly generic at the end of the film. Kristen Bell as Jade Wilson, the director of the superhero films, gets some good comedic moments but is pretty much wasted though. The cast being wasted is a pretty common theme throughout the cast since they are mostly in supporting roles. Whilst we get to understand the heroic nature of the character and it’s nice to hear him deliver a more straight laced performance, Nicolas Cage doesn’t really get much to do as Superman. The same is also true for Greg Davies as Balloon Man, although it is great that Davies is the first voice we hear in the film (by the way, to anyone reading this who hasn’t seen Greg Davies’ work in Taskmaster, go and watch Taskmaster now). This wasting is also true of Patton Oswalt as the Atom and Wil Wheaton as The Flash, who I can’t remember having a single line even though he is credited. I also found the casting of Halsey as Wonder Woman, Lil Yachty as Green Lantern and Jimmy Kimmel as Batman distracting, the stunt casting not working as well as it did in Lego Batman.
The technical side of the film is pretty strong though. For one thing, I loved how different animation styles were used throughout the film for dream sequences and the films-within-the-film. There were even references to the animation styles of other DC adaptations, mainly Batman: The Animated Series in there, and this change in styles garnered some of the biggest laughs from me. The character animation is also solid, even if it’s clear there are budget limitations, giving the Titans themselves clearly defined movements to fit the characters. The musical numbers meanwhile are actually pretty good, the songs being decently written and the singing for each of them is pretty solid, along with the animation for them giving them a distinct feel in the film. Granted some of the songs get overused but they are still fun. The background animation meanwhile, whilst fairly simple, does provide some solid background jokes that add to the humour of the film in satirising how ridiculous superhero films have gotten, but the same background jokes are repeated ad nauseam, so the comedic potential is hammered into the ground.
Overall, Teen Titans Go to the Movies is a decent film. There are some great jokes, solid performances and decent pieces of animation, but there’s no real weight to the film, no characterisation for anyone outside of Robin and when the film’s humour moves away from satirising superhero films, it just doesn’t work for me, which is far too often. Again, I haven’t seen Teen Titans Go so I can’t say how it compares to the show, but what I will say is that this is clearly a film aimed at very young children (despite the many jokes that will go over their heads) and it will work brilliantly for them, but for anyone else, it’s just too light and juvenile to be anything more than okay.
My Rating: 3/5