Review: 'Teen Titans' puts 'Justice League' to shame
By RICK BENTLEY | Tribune News Service | Published: July 26, 2018
All the problems that have plagued studio efforts like “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “Justice League” are nowhere to be found in the company’s latest comic book-inspired feature, the animated “Teen Titans Go! To the Movies.”
The tale of the comic book world’s best-known sidekick, Robin (voiced by Scott Menville), and his fellow Titans is super fun because of its writing that is willing to go from juvenile to full-geek mode and an animation style that explodes off the screen. It’s not hampered by the storytelling and bleak imagery that have been the norm in so many movies based on DC characters.
The quirky and irreverent version of the “Teen Titans” that has been such a hit on Cartoon Network swirls around the idea that Robin wants to join the likes of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern - well, maybe not Green Lantern - who have been featured in their own movies. Hollywood is more intent on making a movie about Batman’s butler, Alfred, the Batmobile or the utility belt than giving Robin the spotlight.
With a song in their hearts, Robin convinces Beast Boy (Greg Cipes), Cyborg (Khary Payton), Raven (Tara Strong) and Starfire (Hynden Walch) to go to Hollywood, where they will convince Jade Wilson (Kristen Bell), the director behind all the superhero movies, to make a film about them.
Writers Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic have put together a script that will entertain those too young to know what a comic book is and be a treasure chest of DC-related material for those who know that universe better than they know their own phone number.
Combine that with the past pacing of the story, the wonderful embrace of bold colors and enough other silliness and the movie works on a basic comedy level. The film continues the loony style of the television series that has made it so popular. In a world where superheroes tend to either be self-reflective or good, the Teen Titans are somewhere between a well-run Boy Scout group and a handful of preteens who are riding a high after eating their weight in sugar.
A second level of the script is devoted to fans of the genre, whether in print or on the big screen. It’s funny seeing an animated Stan Lee pop up for a cameo as he has done in the Marvel Cinema Universe.
If you are an even bigger comic book fan, the writing duo has filled the movie with many of DC Comics’ most famous heroes and villains. They didn’t stop there, but managed to plug in the likes of lesser known characters such as Metamorpho, The Spectre and Challengers of the Unknown.
The main reason Horvath and Jelenic have such a firm grip on the world is the pair have been behind the 200-plus episodes of the cable channel series. They know the voices of the characters well, and it shows when making the move to the big screen.
Even the movie’s soundtrack is so light and upbeat it is the final element that keeps “Teen Titans Go! To the Movies” from slipping into a dull moment. It would not be surprising to see “Upbeat Inspirational Song About Life” - performed by the Teen Titans voice talents plus Michael Bolton - get some attention at Oscar time.
The lone quibble with the film is having Will Arnett provide the voice for Slade, the archnemesis of the Teen Titans. It wasn’t that long ago he was voicing Batman, and the work is too similar. But, Arnett is an executive producer on the movie, which gives him a lot of clout when dealing with the filmmakers.
“Teen Titans Go! To the Movies” even comes with a way to make another animated tale in a flash. The short film before the main event featuring Batgirl and the rest of the DC Super Hero Girls has more energy that Green Lantern’s ring, soars higher on the action scale than Hawkman can fly and is more entertaining in a few minutes than all of “Batman v. Superman.” Warner Bros. executives need to take a strong look at the female heroes being the star of the next animated offering.
Between the short film and the feature, DC has found a way to make up for a lot of their live-action comic book movie misfires. Even as good as “Teen Titans Go! To the Movies” is, nothing will ever make amends for the nearly perfect disaster of “Green Lantern.” This comes close.
TEEN TITANS GO! TO THE MOVIES
Cast: Scott Menville, Khary Payton, Tara Strong, Kristen Bell, Nicolas Cage, Will Arnett, Hynden Walch.
Directors: Aaron Horvath, Michael Jelenic.
Rated PG for action scenes, rude humor.
Running time: 84 minutes.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.