The film might be aimed at fans of the Cartoon Network show, but any parent who tags along will likely chortle as the film gleefully skewers the world of superheroes and the film industry itself. Rating: 3 stars out of 4.
When it comes to superhero movies, there’s a perception that you’ve got to choose between DC’s gritty, dour offerings or Marvel’s winking humor. But five cartoon wannabe heroes armed with fart jokes are trying to change that.
Warner Bros. has elevated its “B” level DC superheroes in Team Titans Go! from basic cable to the big screen in hopes they can do what so many of its A-list films cannot — add a dose of surreal and goofy humor to its universe. Think of it like “Deadpool” for the middle-school set.
“Teen Titans GO! to the Movies” might be aimed at fans of the manic and underrated Cartoon Network show, but any parent who tags along will likely chortle as the film gleefully skewers the world of superheroes and the film industry itself.
Jokes take on “Apocalypse Now,” “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “The Lion King.” There’s a scene when Shia LaBeouf gets beaten up and an appearance by Stan Lee, the Marvel icon, who, yes, makes fun of himself in a cameo in a DC film.
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The film’s central premise is mocking the endless supply of tights-and-cape-wearing flicks out there. The Teen Titans — Robin (voiced by Scott Menville), Starfire (Hynden Walch), Beast Boy (Greg Cipes), Cyborg (Khary Payton) and Raven (Tara Strong) — want one, too, but they’re not considered famous enough to warrant their own franchise. So they band together to force Hollywood to take them seriously. “Having a movie is the only way to be seen as a real hero,” intones Robin.
They decide they need an arch-nemesis to legitimize them and find one in Slade (a sort of DC version of Deadpool, which proves a rich vein of jokes). Part of the reason they decide on Slade is his name is “fun to say in a dramatic way.” He’s voiced by Will Arnett, who played Batman in the two “LEGO” movies, and is happy to break the fourth wall: “Don’t you know anything about arch-villains?” he asks when he seems to be defeated. “We always have a backup plan.”
Some of the other guest voices include talk show host Jimmy Kimmel as Batman, singer Halsey as Wonder Woman, rapper Lil Yachty as Green Lantern, actor Wil Wheaton as Flash, comedian Patton Oswalt as Atom and actress Kristen Bell as a film mogul. You’ll also get to hear Nicolas Cage voice Superman — a role he famously almost played in a live-action film in the late 1990s. But most of the celebs have very few lines so don’t go just for the guests.
Do go for the world created by the writers and directors Aaron Horvath, Michael Jelenic and Peter Rida Michail, who have been collaborating on this screwball world since 2013. Their transition to the big screen is admirable — taking a 22-minute TV show into an hour-and-a-half movie can’t be easy — but it never lags.
★★★ “Teen Titans GO! To the Movies,” with the voices of Khary Payton, Tara Strong, Scott Menville, Greg Cipes, Hynden Walch. Written and directed by Aaron Horvath, Michael Jelenic and Peter Rida Michail. 88 minutes. Rated PG for action and rude humor. Opens July 27 at multiple theaters.