Movie Leftovers: Teen Titans GO! to the Movies.
The Teen Titans lament not getting a full length movie. Their first effort demonstrates why they’re really not ready for prime time.
Thanksgiving has come and gone, but the leftovers continue as we clear our way through our Most and Least Anticipated Lists for 2018. This week we get an animated offering from Warner Brothers DC line-up. Unfortunately, the Teen Titans’ first big screen foray does not break the streak of lousy movies based on DC comics. A fun trailer had me excited that Teen Titans Go to the Movies was going to be a self aware send up of Warner’s embattled super heroes, especially Superman and Batman. Instead, we get a few throw-away nods to DC movie lore and a ton of juvenile tomfoolery.
Teen Titans GO! to the Movies (2018).
The Teen Titans are getting fed up with the adult super heroes of the Justice League. Every time the Titans try to tackle something major, the JLA steps in and takes over, treating them like kids. It’s so bad that they can’t even find an arch nemesis, and EVERY super team needs an arch nemesis! The worst part, especially for team-leader Robin, is that all of the adult super heroes are getting movie deals and nobody cares about the Teen Titans. Batman gets so many movies, even the Batmobile is getting a spin-off before Robin can get a movie.
Enter criminal mastermind Slade (Deathstroke, voiced by Will Arnett) who is free to commit crime since all of the heroes are busy making Hollywood movies. All except the Titans…but a ploy to use a potential Robin movie could break up the team and leave Slade free to rob the city blind.
A Few Hits, but More Misses.
Teen Titans GO! to the Movies utilizes the fire-hose method of comedy: a million gags stream at the target, so at least a few will hit. I found it to be exhausting. It’s more erratic than frenetic. Like late 90’s cartoons on Nickelodeon, the film feels like barely organized lunacy. A few smart jokes find their mark: the Titans head back in time to prevent the cliched tragic events behind every super hero, and this allows them to riff on iconic moments from Batman and Superman’s film legacy. The bit with Superman is inspired, as it turns on a throwaway line of dialogue from the first Richard Donner Superman that gets riffed on to great effect. Unfortunately, the rest of the Justice League gets treated to brainless gags such as deflating Aquaman’s pool as a kid. It’s pretty clear that the writer’s ran out of material but kept chucking stuff onto the page. That applies to the plot as well as the jokes.
Here, just watch this and you have the best 3 minutes of the movies.
The thin plot fails to provide any real substance as counterweight to the nonstop gags. The movie story line seems jumbled together and forgotten for stretches. It inspires a few jokes and some meta commentary on the super hero movie craze, but there’s not nearly enough substance to sustain the film. The writer’s don’t even take a deep dive on the topic at hand, preferring to use it for a gag or two before rushing away to some other skit. I would say it seems like several episodes of the show smashed together, but its more like several episodes strip-mined of their jokes and super-glued onto the main story. After watching the movie I checked out an episode of the TV series to compare it; wouldn’t you know they were flogging a time travel/save the JLA story? Not a lot of material to go around apparently.
Teen Titans GO!…Crazy?
I liked the original Teen Titans cartoon from 2003. It was smart, punched way above its weight, and really got the most out of obscure characters. Everyone had a personality and therefore brought unique strengths and weaknesses to the plot. Robin was cocky but smart, Cyborg was overly macho but loyal, Starfire was naive but blisteringly powerful, etc. Sure, they were usually not up to the tasks that the JLA handled, but that was used to make it personable. Every teen who gets treated like a dumb kid by adults could relate.
The problem with Teen Titans GO! is that they really are just a bunch of dumb kids. Worse, they’re all the same dumb kid. I didn’t feel one bit of individuality. Each character was such a jibbering idiot at all times that they didn’t even screw up in unique ways. The one character that was credible was Robin, but GO!’s iteration brings nothing new to the sulky, Batman-envy riddled persona of Robin that’s been in fashion for decades. It’s lazy writing all the way down the line.
GO! See Something Else!
There’s not really any level on which to recommend Teen Titans GO! to the Movies. It’s a trite plot with bad characters, dumb jokes, and whipsaw pacing. The one or two funny bits will sail over the head of kids while the constant inanity of the “for kids” stuff will render an adult brain comatose. A lot of cartoons aimed at kids are just idiocy amped up on pixie sticks, I know. It’s not like the Looney Tunes were Shakespeare. But there’s plenty of smarter stuff aimed at children, both story and joke wise, that you can give your kids besides this vapid roller coaster ride. Having seen the state of the show the movie is based on, I’d like to congratulate Warner Brothers on misunderstanding and wrecking yet another one of their properties. Somebody please take the DC characters away from these bozos before they hurt themselves or somebody else.