You may be forgiven for not being wildly excited about the release of Teen Titans GO! to the Movies. Unless you are in possession of small children and/or quirky taste in toons, the big screen debut of the small screen super friends is unlikely to have had much impact at all. So you may be forgiven. But you would also be totally WRONG.
Make haste to your television sets and get familiar with the Titans, fast, before you lose the right to brag: I was totally into Teen Titans before they made it big!
Robin, Beast Boy, Starfire, Cyclops and Raven are the only ones who can save Jump City from the air powered assault of Balloon Man. The team are laser focused on their mission…until their foe lets slip that he has never heard of Teen Titans. Feeling deflated the Titans break out their ID rap and leave the big bad airbag for the big boys to clean up.
This deceptively frenetic opening sequence could be a mission statement for the entire movie; so crammed is it with primary colours, preposterous villainy and pointed barbs at the superficiality of being super. Scornful of the Titans’ failure to triumph, the media savvy members of the Justice League point out the Teen Titans tragic lack of exposure.
Chastened, the five friends slink off to regroup and formulate an action plan. They reunite at Batman’s (latest) movie opening where Robin grows increasingly anxious to see his name in lights. The night is compered by superhero movie-making machine Jade Wilson (voiced by Kristen Bell) and is bookended by Robin’s humiliation. His hopes for a ROBIN! movie dashed.
Daylight brings new inspiration: the friends, inspired by a brand new enemy, realise that to attract the spotlight all they lack is an arch-nemesis. The correctly identify that half the fun of facing off against a foe is the act of slowly saying their name. And in Slade (Will Arnett) they find both a worthy opponent and a sibilant moniker to repeat. SSSlaaaade will help them hit the big time!
Slade does not help them hit the big time. Instead the brown stuff hits the fan after the Titans take Jade Wilson’s directorial wisdom somewhat too literally and accidentally alter the course of history for all of humanity. It is an epic oops but it is one which is spirit guided by Michael Bolton (in cartoon tiger form), an upbeat inspirational song about life (called exactly that) and a stonking time travel montage exploding with retro references. Silver linings!
Those among you who were into Teen Titans before [ahem] will recognise the dynamic core cast and disarmingly smart humour from the original show but, appropriately for cinematic scaling, the show’s smarts have been put up to eleven to ensure they really rock. Taking cynical advantage of superhero movie ennui, the film pokes affectionate fun at tired tropes and cheap cash ins with a little help from THE DOOMSDAY MACHINE.
No, not that one.
Inevitably the big Hollywood player is also the big bad and Will Arnett and Kristen Bell ensure that Slade and Jade each take a hugely entertaining strut along the dividing line between comedy and satire. Greg Cipes, Scott Menville, Khary Payton, Tara Strong and Hynden Walch reprise their roles (as Beast Boy, Robin, Cyborg, Raven and Starfire respectively) with aplomb and all get the opportunity to have fun with the baddies and with their own origin stories when things go awry.
But as ever it is our human/demon sorceress Raven (Tara Strong) who steals the show. Her bone dry delivery, exasperation and convenient portal to other dimensions undercut the larger set pieces and songs time and again. Like the movie itself she is irreverent and ingenious and, together with the entire ensemble, helps buoy these DC afterthoughts up to (and often beyond) the lofty heights of their elders.
Bursting with musical numbers, barbs about Batman and general joyousness, Teen Titans GO! To The Movies deserves to be a smash. It eviscerates as it entertains and downright refuses to speak down to its audience. If the DC Universe was sucked into Lego Batman’s Cloud Cuckoo Land, and the events which ensued recreated in the reality of Kung Fury, you would be somewhere close to the awesomeness of this film. Until that happy day comes, go! go! go! to Teen Titans GO! to The Movies.
Teen Titans GO! to the Movies opens across the UK on Friday 3rd August