Kernel Rating: 4 out of 5
MPAA Rating: PG Length: 88 minutes
Age Appropriate For: 8+. This film is a spinoff of the “Teen Titans Go!” TV show that airs on Cartoon Network, and the content in the movie is pretty much the same: characters work together to fight crime, so there are some action sequences and cartoon violence, including characters who are viciously beaten, attacked, and run over by a car; there are some flatulence and butt jokes; there is a hint of a light crush between two characters; and there are some jokes that borderline on rude.
‘Teen Titans Go! To the Movies’ is simultaneously a send-up of superhero movies and an homage to it, a spinoff whose music is infectious, jokes are consistently funny, and characters are relatable.
By Roxana Hadadi
How do people become famous, and why? Celebrity is overwhelming in the real world, and in our digital-everywhere age, children too are aware of who is popular and who is not, whether on YouTube or in Hollywood or on the news. Add our cultural obsession with superheroes into the mix and you get “Teen Titans Go! To the Movies,” a self-aware spinoff of the Cartoon Network series that examines why certain figures are beloved and why others are overlooked, and what it really means to be a hero at a time when it seems like every single crime fighter with a mask or a cape is getting their own movie.
If you’re familiar with “Teen Titans Go!”, you know that most of the time, the team isn’t fighting crime; they’re usually hanging out, eating pizza, singing songs, and cracking jokes. But that doesn’t seem to be enough for Robin (voiced by Scott Menville)—he’s sick of seeing every other superhero receive their own movie, which he sees as a sign of acceptance and approval. And when Robin and the rest of the Teen Titans—Cyborg (voiced by Khary Payton), the shapeshifting Beast Boy (voiced by Greg Cipes), the alien princess Starfire (voiced by Hynden Walch), and the sorceress Raven (voiced by Tara Strong)—aren’t even invited to the premiere of the film “Batman Again,” he decides to do something to gain attention for him and his friends.
“How do we get an arch nemesis?” the team wonders after they realize that every major superhero has a villain that they never fully vanquish, but fight over and over again to maintain relevance. Lo and behold, there’s a new baddie in town named Slade (voiced by Will Arnett), who steals a crystal and has a nefarious plan. When Robin zeroes in on making Slade their arch nemesis, it seems like he’s one step closer to shaking off the accusations from doubters that “he’s just a sidekick.” But what Robin’s desire for fame does to the Teen Titans fractures friendships—is it really worth it?
“Teen Titans Go! To the Movies” hits that tricky balance between material for children and for older viewers. Younger audience members will get a kick out of the group dynamics, like their shared love for fart jokes, pizza, and their utter devotion to each other, while older viewers will appreciate the shout-outs to lesser-known comic book characters, the mockery of our 24-hour news cycle, and the allusions to ‘80s classics like “Back to the Future” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.” But “Teen Titans Go!” doesn’t feel like a divided movie, where one joke is clearly for kids and one joke is clearly for adults. It tonally works because the characters are so fully realized and the relationships so strong, and the variety of jokes (the Teen Titans dramatically saying “Slade” whenever the villain appears, Robin being convinced that his “booty” should be “up in 3D” in his movie, and a log gag involving an on-set bathroom) keep the pace rapid and the humor unrelenting.
And then there are the songs, which are influenced by hip-hop and sound like something straight out of the hit Broadway musical “Hamilton”—they’re energetic, upbeat, and exuberant. How the Teen Titans belt along with their mixtapes and lose themselves in an extended singing sequence with a rainbow-riding tiger voiced by Michael Bolton (I know it sounds crazy written out, but you have to go with it) is the exact kind of enthusiasm that a movie about superheroes, ostensibly a subject we should be sick of by now, needs to set itself apart. But “Teen Titans Go! To the Movies” is really making the point that heroism on a grand scale isn’t that different from being a hero to friends and family, and the clever, joyful way it presents that message is a refreshing change of pace.
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