Teen Titans Go! doesn’t deserve half the hate it gets.
Let’s begin with this key point. Teen Titans Go! is extremely hated by fans of the 2003 series as if it was some betrayal of a serious show. Which it is not. TTG! is definitely a comedy version but it’s not wildly far off from the original show in that both are light, silly riffs on Wolfman/Perez. This just takes it to an extreme. And my 4 year old daughter loves it. Fine. It’s for her. Not for me.
Except it so is for me. As I said, this is a comedy version of Wolfman/Perez. It’s funny for kids sure. But comic fans? Oh it’s totally made for us. Half the jokes are aimed at our knowledge. The characters themselves would hardly be funny unless they were recognizable extreme spoofs of the comics. It’s very much for fans.
So let’s talk the movie! Oddly I’m not being controversial to say Teen Titans Go To The Movies is great. You’d think this being the first theatrical TT movie would make it hated. Nope. This is widely viewed as a genius spoof of superhero movies. And I mean it is. It’s the Walk Hard of the genre. A great parody that happens to have the DC license.
The movie’s plot involves Robin (Scott Menville) feeling jealous that the Batmobile and Alfred get movies before him. The Teen Titans thus resolve to find a nemesis and succeed with Death–wait kids movie Slade (Will Arnett.) The Titans make a stab at getting a movie made but are told it’ll only happen if they’re the only heroes in the world. They go back and time and stop all origins from happening but cause an apocalypse. This is undone in the darkest montage imaginable including getting the Waynes murdered. Eventually shenanigans happen. Robin gets his own shot at stardom but of course will learn it’s a mistake. The entire superhero movie complex will be revealed as a plot. And Stan Lee makes a cameo parodying his Marvel cameos.
Look there is a lot of plot and not a bit of it matters. This is a structure to deconstruct not only the comic book movie but also the structure of every film where a character learns not to be selfish. The movie wants to go all in on how very meaningless all this is. And it goes even harder on the unrelenting randomness.
What you have is a giant riff on the whole genre. There’s a long reference to the unmade Superman Lives with Nicolas Cage as Superman. Inevitably the movie brings up how bad Green Lantern was. Of course the Martha line gets mocked. The film digs deep to include a ludicrous number of characters ranging from Balloon Man to the underloved Challengers of the Unknown. And bless DC for acknowledging how overexposed Batman is with jokes ranging from the aforementioned films to a film called Batman Again. Plus Stan Lee. Oh he’s fun here.
The movie doesn’t start to take itself seriously or even try to be a big film. Aside from a sequence that riffs on other animation styles, it looks like TV. It’s very simple animation and I think that makes the jokes pop. This doesn’t want to be an epic. It rolls its eyes at that. And no this is not the ideal first Teen Titans movie. Except it’s not. We had three DTV movies. One was a spinoff of the 2003 show while the other two were serious. Those exist.
The voice cast is solid largely because fun cameos like Cage and Lee and VO vets like Arnett and Kristen Bell aside, it sticks with voice actors. I should pause here to note that the voice cast for Teen Titans Go! is actually identical to the 2003 show, which has a lot to do with why everyone is spot on. Menville is a perfectly irritable hyper Robin. Hynden Walch is appropriately spacey as Starfire. Greg Cipes is blissfully odd as Beast Boy. Khary Payton brings the macho as Cyborg. And as always Tara Strong is great as Raven. These actors get these parts.*
This is not a dense movie. It’s a deeply silly, funny bit of fluff. But it reminds us the material isn’t for adults. It’s for kids. And beyond the reference humor and the occasional adult line, this is a kids movie. It just reminds adults why being a kid is fun.
*That the voice casts are identical would pay dividends for Teen Titans Go! vs Teen Titans.