Peter Rida Michail, Aaron Horvath, 88 mins, voiced by: Scott Menville, Hynden Walch, Khary Payton, Tara Strong, Greg Cipes, Nicolas Cage
Teen Titans Go! To the Movies was made through Warner Bros Animation arm but is very thin gruel by comparison with the Bugs Bunny and Looney Tunes cartoons the studio used to produce in its heyday. Spun off from a Cartoon Network TV series, this is a self-reflexive exercise. It’s not just a movie featuring superheroes – it’s one that lampoons the superhero genre and Hollywood’s craven reliance on it.
The Boy Wonder Robin is desperate to be in a superhero movie of his own. He is sick of being upstaged by the Batmobile and even by Batman’s utility belt. Sadly for him,“sidekicks” aren’t considered interesting enough to carry a film, especially when they don’t have an arch-enemy of their own.
Teen Titans is presumably aimed at a young audience but many of its references will sail over the heads of kids. The film takes satirical sideswipes at the global ambitions of streaming platforms like Netflix. It throws in tongue-in-cheek cameos from Stan Lee (who briefly becomes confused as to whether he’s in the DC or the Marvel universe), references to the failure of The Green Lantern movie and even has obscure in-jokes about Shia LaBeouf.
The best gags here tend to be the crudest ones, for example when the Titans prick the buttocks of the evil Balloon Man, thereby causing him to fart himself out of existence.
The filmmakers also include a surprisingly base sequence in which the dim-witted superheroes all poop in a lavatory on the set, little realising that it isn’t “real” and has no plumbing attached. The main villain Slade (voiced by Will Arnett) is a master of “mind manipulation” and one-upmanship.
“You guys are awfully immature for the Justice League,” Robin and the rest of the teen heroes are told by the other superheroes – and even by the villains too. The filmmakers are being pulled in opposing directions. On the one hand, they fill the film with knowing jokes about the Hollywood machine and the foibles of those who operate it.
On the other, they include as many songs and upbeat action routines for younger kids as possible. These little super-heroes want to have their Krypton and to eat it too. The most dispiriting element is the animation itself. This is garish and full of very bright, eye-popping colours but has none of the wit or guile that used to characterise the classic old Looney Tunes in the days of Tex Avery and Chuck Jones.
Teen Titans Go! to the Movies hits UK cinemas 3 August