The DC brand, which once saw Superman lifting cars to save people and Batman spraying shark repellent, has developed a reputation of late for being quite serious-minded in its approach, often in conjunction with Marvel and its very quippy brand. Their superheroes need to bleed. They have to kill and sacrifice in order to prosper. It is, understandably, an approach which garners criticism for how it can appeal to younger audiences, the children who these characters were initially conceived for. While I like Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice more than a number of my peers, I recognize that we are living in a dark age, filled with terror and dismay, and we should have some refrain from the darkness. Jokes can be the best medicine for our dreary, disturbing reality and sometimes, we simply need to let off a good bit of steam.
Enter Teen Titans Go! To the Movies, a silly, goofy little reprise from the brooding and terror that has come to define DC’s recent output. Filled with meta jokes and silly quips, much like the rebooted show that inspired it, it is not to every DC fan’s satisfaction that the show doesn’t like to take itself very seriously. But to paraphrase the infamous Joker, why do we need to be so serious all the time?
Centered around Robin (Scott Menville), Cyborg (Khary Payton), Starfire (Hynden Walch), Beast Boy (Greg Cipes) and Raven (Tara Strong) in their cinematic quest to establish themselves as bonafide movie superstars, while also trying to defeat the wicked and sarcastic Slade (Will Arnett, who also serves as a producer), Teen Titans‘ first big-screen foray is a meta, punchy, exuberant little number that is either going to be winningly childish or intolerably self-satisfied. Though certainly not flawless, there is quite a bit to appreciate in this big screen arrival from directors Aaron Horvath and Peter Rida Michail beyond its sense of humor. The animation is splendidly active, the voice performances are winningly heartfelt and the pacing is refreshingly and appropriately dash. Most importantly, it’s fun.
Teen Titans Go! The Movies is a little too cocky and immature at times, even if we are talking about a PG film directed towards children, and it can also be surprisingly pretty damn dark. There are two or three jokes in this motion picture that’ll go down as two of the darkest jokes I see all year, let alone among the darkest jokes I’ve ever seen in a family film. It works, mainly because Teen Titans Go! To the Movies is emboldened by its cinematic aspirations, and it gives the animated movie a sense of wonderment and childlike ambition that has been sorely missing from the DC’s output of late outside of last year’s Wonder Woman. The film — overlong though it might be, even if it is not even pushing the 90-minute mark — is rapid-fire with its puns and it is sincere in its ambitions. That won’t win everyone over, but for people who want something that will make them smile and giggle nearly once a minute, there’s a great value to be found in the film’s rambunctious spirit. Comedy is subjective, and there are certainly some lame jokes to be found in its overeager need to joke about next to everything. But it charms.
Comparing Teen Titans Go! To The Movies to the recently-released trailer for Titans is comparing light to the Dark Knight. This new animated WB movie is spunky, bubbly, satirical, goofy, lighthearted, energetic, quippy, entirely silly and, most of all, charming. It’s carefree and slap-happy, notably when being intoxicated on its own ridiculousness. And it’s unsuspectingly prone to fits of dark humor that are in sharp contrast (perhaps intentionally so) to its bright, otherwise jolly flights of fancy and over-the-top absurdity. But oh my goodness, is it earnest and oh my word, does it consistently feel determined to please. Rambunctious though it can often be, it’s hard not to be taken by its jolliness. It has a big, beating, beautifully creative heart, and whether or not it’s your type of comedy, you’ll likely be amused by its sheer giddiness. It has a sharp desire to please.
There is a lot of darkness today, particularly in the DCEU. Teen Titans Go! to the Movies is a rare beam of light — in more ways than one. Whether or not it appeals to you is something you’ll need to determine for yourself when you purchase your ticket and make your way into the first movie featuring the Teen Titans. Nevertheless, they make it worth your while, and sometimes, it’s good to let your worries go and smile a little bit.