Teen Titans GO! To the Movies (2018) Review
A HILARIOUS SUPERHERO MOVIE
(THAT WE ALL NEED RIGHT NOW)
Back in 2003, the animated cartoon show Teen Titans premiered on Cartoon Network, showcasing the younger generation of DC Superheroes. The TV show which was primarily based off of the 1980s New Teen Titans comic book series, followed the adventures of the Titans team, consisting of superhero characters like Robin, Beast Boy, Cyborg, Starfire, and Raven and how the battle numerous villains and encounter several ally companions along the way. Teen Titans was met with overwhelming success, becoming one of Cartoon Network’s most beloved and critically acclaimed shows; being praised for its character development of its main cast and the overall serious tone of the series. Teen Titans, which was also nominated for three Annie Awards and one Motion Picture Sound Editor Award, ran for five seasons (a total of 65 episodes) before the show ended in 2006, with the TV movie Teen Titans: Trouble in Tokyo acting as the series finale. However, while fans cried out for the show to revived for a sixth season, the Teen Titans brand did return (several years later), but in a slightly different form. In 2013, a Teen Titan spin-off show emerged dubbed Teen Titans GO! on Cartoon Network. Much like before, the show followed the familiar roster of Titan team members (i.e. Robin, Beast Boy, Cyborg, Starfire, and Raven), but was a more comical-based series (more of loose misadventure series rather than its serious episodic narrative of the previous series). In a nutshell, the show explores what the Titans do when there hanging around the tower, more or less. The overall tonal change was a change of pace, especially for Teen Titans fans, but it was a welcomed one, with Teen Titans GO! still currently running (as of this review) in its fifth season (a total so far of 213 episodes). Now, expanding on the popular success Teen Titans GO!, Warner Bros. Pictures (Warner Bros. Animation) and directors Peter Rida Michail and Aaron Horvath present their first movie titled Teen Titans GO! To the Movies. Does this big-screen feature film endeavor do the Teen Titans GO! franchise justices or is it just a bloated madcap adventure or its fanbase (and nothing more)?
In Jump City, the Teen Titans team, consisting of Robin (Scott Menville), Cyborg (Khary Payton), Beast Boy (Greg Cipes), Starfire (Hynden Walch), and Raven (Tara Strong) are eager to prove they are legitimate superheroes just like the members of the Justice League. Unfortunately, the group has difficulty taking their crimefighting heroics / superheroes responsibilities seriously and are seen (by their superhero peers) as goofball jokes. Determined to change the world perception of the Titans, Robin desires to get a movie made about him and his team. If granted a Hollywood deal from famed movie director Jade Wilson (Kirsten Bell), the Titans will be “real” heroes. However, after pitching the idea, Jade turns down Robin’s dream, stating that the team needs a worthy archnemesis advisory to combat to be considered as a film prospect. With a glint of opportunity for his movie, Robin and the Titans set their eyes on finding their own supervillain to fight, finding the villainous Slade (Will Arnett) emerging from the shadows and committing crimes while the other superheroes are attending their own film premieres. However, the task seems to be much larger (and harder) than expected, as Robin’s ambition for his own movie might risk losing sight of what’s most important in life.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
I do remember when Teen Titans first came out on Cartoon Network and watched a few episodes of the show. I thought the show (as a whole) was good, but it was during that point in my life when I rarely watched shows on Cartoon Network as I was starting to watch live-action adult shows on the main broadcast channels (i.e. 24, House, Lost, House, etc.) as well as some on the premium channels (mostly shows on HBO). Thus, I didn’t stick with the Teen Titans show, but I’ve heard great things about it, which makes think that I should rewatch the series in its entirety someday soon. As for Teen Titans GO!, I heard that it was a spin-off of the original Teen Titans show, but in a more kid-friendly goofy comedy iteration versus the more grounded and seriousness of its predecessor. However, I really didn’t take notice of the series that much, believing it to be a mostly madcap episodic endeavor for a much younger viewers. I’m not saying that was a bad series or anything like that, it just didn’t appeal to me (again, I really stopped watching Cartoon Network after graduating high school in 2003).
This, of course, leads me to talking about Teen Titans GO! To the Movies. Because I really didn’t follow the Teen Titans GO! original shorts or its episodic cartoon series, I really didn’t hear nor did I pay attention to any internet “buzz” about this online. Heck, I didn’t even know that this movie was gonna come out until I saw the movie trailer (in theaters) when I went to see a PG movie. Judging from the film’s movie trailers To the Movies looked to be more of a goofy slapstick feature film, carrying a lot of the same type of humor and angst. The movie peaked my interest (mostly due to the film’s comedy shown in the trailers), so I was a bit curious to see the movie. However, before seeing the movie, I saw a few of the Teen Titans GO! episodes…. Just to see it and to know what I am getting into when I went to see To the Movies in theaters. For the most part, the few episodes that I watched were what I expected them to be (i.e. full of goody child humor and geared towards very young tweens). So… what did I think of the movie? Well, to be honest, I actually kind of liked it. Despite some minor quibbles here and there, Teen Titans GO! To the Movies is a very goofy and very meta take on superhero genre, keeping the movie’s entertainment light on its feet and packs a punch with its self-awareness antics. In short, I enjoyed it and (if you join in the movie’s inherit silliness) I think many will do the same.
To the Movies is directed by both directors Peter Rida Michail and Aaron Horvath, who both have a background in the animation field with such projects like Mad, El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera, Speed Racers, and Olivia. In addition, Michnail and Horvath also have a background on working on the Teen Titans GO! cartoon show in several capacities, including directors, animators, and writers. Thus, given the familiarity with show and how it ebbs and flows, it seems that the duo are perfect to bring to life a Teen Titans GO! adventure made for a full-length movie endeavor. To that effect, both Michnail and Horvath succeed, making To the Movies a prime example of translating the inherit charm and goofiness of the show onto the big screen for a larger adventure. In truth, To the Movies (much like Teen Titans GO! is a madcap series of goofy misadventure angst and that’s portrayed in a broad slapstick kind of way (sort of like the old Looney Tunes cartoons). It may be off putting to some (i.e. a bit juvenile), but Michnail and Horvath seem to nail some great comedy routines that the Titans find themselves in the movies.
Additionally, To the Movies is also self-aware of its overall silliness and does bring a certain type of palpable laughs throughout its runtime. Naturally, the movie, being based in its DC Comics superhero roots, does have it fair share of references the roster of DC Comics characters, including several feature films made about them (i.e. Green Lantern mentioning he has a movie made about him, but no one talks about that one). In addition to that, the movie’s humorous references extend to other franchises and pop culture references, including a “blink and you miss it” moment of the popular but short-lived superhero cartoon series Young Justice. To be honest, some references are pretty hilarious, especially several like a “Back to the Future” reference and a “Lion King” homage scene. What’s even more hilarious is that the film reaches across the aisle does have a few Marvel Comics references, name dropping a few recognizable names here and there and one hilarious cameo. Personally, I think I actually laughed more during this movie than I did when I saw Ant-Man and the Wasp, which is considered the more “lighthearted” MCU feature of the recent tentpole of superhero movies. That’s not to say the movie is just a goofy movie of poop jokes a plethora of superhero / pop culture references as To the Movies a decent amount of action sequences that, while are revolutionary, are still eye-catching to see and are represented in the movie to make for some fun cartoon action scenes. However, beyond the rhythm of its timely jokes and gags and action scenes, To the Movies does have a bit more sophistication than some might realize. The movie might be layered in cartoon-based humor and superheroes inside jokes, but it’s smartly utilized and doesn’t feel boring nor generic (to the touch) as some recent animated features have done. Thus, credit must be given Michnail and Horvath in creating a very fun (and meta) animated superhero movie with To the Movies. In truth, I was pleasantly surprise how much I liked about this movie, especially since I went into the with some “iffy” expectations.
In terms of animation, To the Movies seems to have a slightly upgrade style of animation from its cartoon series. Thus, fans will surely be delighted in how this film keeps the overall look and feel of its animated tv show. Yes, the most common comparison will be how To the Movies compares up against some of today’s animated feature endeavors from big studios like Disney, Pixar, DreamWorks, and Illumination Entertainment. However, the animation style for this movie is actually pretty good and its does offer a sort of “breath of fresh air” type vibe as it breaks up the monotonous of that CGI patted / matted look that most every animated film has these days. Thus, big kudos on the animation team behind To the Movies (as well as the art department) in keeping the animation colorful and true to its TV show roots. The film’s editing is also worth noting as the film various cuts and shots are filled with energy and presented in a slick way (even for animated feature). Lastly, the film’s musical score, which was composed by Jared Faber, does a good job in creating some background music throughout the feature; complete with rousing superhero-esque flourishes here and there.
To the Movies does stumble a bit throughout its runtime, causing the feature to miss several key points and, despite the film’s positive slapstick overall presentation, gets bogged down within its ambitions and expectations. Perhaps the most notable one is the fact that the transition from its 10-11-minute episodic adventures to a full-length feature film. As one could guess, To the Movies, despite having an interesting set-up build of superheroes (and making movies about them), has a hard time to bringing substance to the movie’s proceedings. In its narrative build, the movie struggles to balance itself between its more lighthearted moments and plot beats, which causes the feature to be unbalanced. To be fair, I really didn’t expect a Teen Titans GO! movie to be a powerful animated movie in the storytelling department, but the movie definitely could’ve used a bit extra more “oomph” to it all. In conjunction with that idea, the movie’s central plot twist is pretty obvious (even for a kid’s movie). Thus, when the twist is “revealed” is pretty “meh” as I could see it coming far before it arrives and really doesn’t come as a shocker per se.
Additionally, there a few sequences throughout the movie, including a time-traveling bit (which I found to be hilarious) which were quite unnecessary to the main plot being told. Most of these scenes consisted of a sort of repetition of jokes and gags and singing and dancing numbers. Yes, I know that Teen Titans GO! is more kid-friendly, consisting of a lot of similar angst that a young tween would like, but it just seems to lack a sort of growth and most of these gags overstay their welcome. In truth, the movie itself, if stripped down, could’ve been told as a 3-4-episode story arc and not really full-length motion picture. Another problem is the movie’s pacing. While the mentioned above that the movie runs at a very brisk pace, the movie’s story seems unbalanced with a very rushed third act. Problems do arise and certain stuff happens, but it just seems to wrap up very quickly, with writers Jelenic and Michail, trying to create several obstacles within the last half-hour with said problems wrapping up themselves. Also, the film’s various songs and dancing numbers get a bit repetitive. I love the opening number song, but the rest are pretty “meh” and become a bit annoying rather than enjoyable toe tappers. Thus, To the Movies (in a nutshell) just feels like super extra large extended episode with a lot of filler time. Whether that’s good, bad, or indifferent to the idea is really up the viewer’s perception. To me, it wasn’t a huge deal breaker as (again) I expected to be mostly slapstick comedy-based humor, but it would’ve liked a bit more substance (and more focus) in this movie.
The cast in To the Movies is a solid one, with a mixture of some of the original voice talents of the show and some recognizable names and / or veterans to the animated movies to bringing these colorful superhero characters to life on the big-screen. As to be expected (just like the TV series) the core five members of the Teen Titans are the main focus on the movie (well…Robin technically is the main protagonist, but you know what I mean) and their respective voice behind their characters are also featured in the movie. This includes actor Scott Menville (The 7D and Randy Cunningham: 9th Grade Ninja) as Robin, actor Khary Payton (The Walking Dead and Transformers: Robots in Disguise) as Cyborg, actor Greg Cipes (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Ben 10) as Beast Boy, actress Hynden Walch (Adventure Time and Henry Hugglemonster) as Starfire, and Tara Strong (My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and The Fairly Oddparents) as Raven. As I mentioned, the film’s screenplay makes for Robin to be the main star of the movie, seeing the leader of the Titans given a very sizeable story arc in To the Movies from start to finish. The other Titans didn’t get as much and are, more or less, supporting team players to Robin’s narrative threads. It’s not bad (kind of expected it to be like this) as the tv show as more than enough to time to bring a sort of well-roundness in each character and their relationships with each other. However, newcomers to the franchise and causal viewers might bit putt off as to the “underserved” moments that Cyborg, Beast Boy, Starfire, and Raven have in To the Movies. Still, they do make for some comical gags throughout and each one does have their moment in the spotlight in showcasing their powers and abilities. In the end, while not every character is fully developed in the movie, the veteran Teen Titans GO! voice talents continue to give solid performances in whatever capacity there are given in To the Movies. Personally, I loved each one in their roles, especially Tara Strong’s Raven (she’s hilarious!).
With the primary cast of voice actors /actresses reprising their Teen Titan GO! roles, To the Movies does offer two newcomer characters, with actor Will Arnett and actress Kristen Bell do the voiceover work for the film’s antagonist character of Slade and big-time movie director Jade Wilson. Both Arnett (Arrested Development and The LEGO Batman Movie) and Bell (Veronica Mars and Frozen) are veterans of supplying voices to animated characters, so it comes at no surprise are solid in their respective roles by providing very larger-than-life vocals dynamics. Naturally, their character development in the movie is a bit “by the book”, especially given the nature of subverting itself as a superhero movie about making superhero movies. Still, both Arnett and Bell make their character’s shortcomings elevate by the way the present their dialogue material for the feature, especially Arnett who really does make for a hilarious comical version of DC Comic character Slade.
The rest of the voice talents used in To the Movies are delegated to the supporting cast of characters, including actor Nicholas Cage (Face / Off and The Rock) as Superman, actor / late night show host Jimmy Kimmel (Jimmy Kimmel Live! and Crank Yankers) as Batman, musician singer / actress Halsey (A Star is Born and Scooby Doo and Guess Who?) as Wonder Woman, rapper and singer Li Yachty as Green Lantern, actor Patton Oswalt (Young Adult and Ratatouille) as Atom, actor Will Wheaton (Star Trek: The Next Generation and Stand By Me) as The Flash, actor Erica Bauza (Ben 10: Omniverse and DuckTales) as Aquaman, actor Greg Davises (Man Down and Cuckoo) as Balloon Man, singer Michael Bolton as Tiger, and (most interesting) a very humorous cameo appearance (who I won’t mention because I don’t want to spoil it). With the movie mostly focused on the Titans (as well as Slade and Jade), these characters are mostly in the background with a few small scenes here and there. However, the vocal performances are solid (in their capacity) and add to the whole goofy / colorful flavor of the movie.
As a final note, much like a lot of superhero movies in this day and age, To the Movies does offer two Easter Eggs during the film’s end credit sequences (a mid-credit one and a very final one at the end). While the latter is pretty funny (a running gag in the movie), the former is probably the more interesting one, which get a lot of people excited at what it hints at.
Robin desires to have his own superhero as he and his Teen Titan friends must find a worthy arch-nemesis in order to get one in the movie Teen Titans GO! To the Movies. Directors Peter Rida Michnail and Aaron Horvath latest film sees the Teen Titans team on their first big-screen adventure, supplanting their humorous jokes and gags into a rounded cinematic tale comedy and superhero dramatics. While the movie does stumble in a few areas (most notably in its storytelling substance), the film does succeed in translating what the made the show and to the big screen as well as some hilariously and fun references and some solid voice acting talents behind the various characters (both familiar to the franchise and new ones). Personally, (and a bit surprisingly) I liked this movie. It does a have a few shortcomings and it is geared towards a more younger audience, but it was definitely entertaining as I found myself laughing quite a lot, mostly during the film’s plethora of references. Thus, my recommendation for this movie is both “recommended” (for fans of the TV show and for some casual moviegoers like me) and a “iffy-choice” as the movie isn’t really made for some mainstream viewers (some might not get the film’s goofy humor). So, it’s really a spilt down the middle and depends on the overall likeness of the brand and / or comedy jokes in making the film’s viewing experience enjoyable. Given the film’s plot involving superheroes and movies, will there be a sequel to To the Movies? It’s really unclear, but I, for one, hope it will materialize sometime in the near future. For now, Teen Titans GO! TO the Movies is nice a hilarious niche in the genre. It may not be for everyone, but it definitely finds its own groove and is really relatively a harmless animated fluff feature that will delight fans and welcoming addition to the plethora of superheroes motion pictures.
4.0 Out of 5 (Recommended / Iffy Choice)
Released On: July 27th, 2018
Reviewed On: August 3rd, 2018
Teen Titans GO! To the Movies is 93 minutes long and is rated PG for action and rude humor