The Teen Titans are yet another B-team super-gang from the D.C. back catalogue. Justice League lite and a whole lot more colourful. Reimagined for a 2013 television series, this animated big-screen upscale pits the characters as hyperactive minors. From the studio most famous for Bugs Bunny, think of them as DC’s equivalent to the Baby Looney Tunes. The animation is styled somewhere between Top Cat and the Power Puff Girls, the humour is kid-friendly Deadpool meta and the soundtrack is My Little Pony inane.
In a plot that reminds of The Lego Batman Movie as much as it recalls Looney Tunes Back in Action and a dozen others, trusty sidekick Robin (Scott Menville) dreams of having a film of his own. The gag being that modern cinema has room for all heroes regardless of their popularity. ‘It doesn’t matter how obscure you are, you’re all getting a movie!’ Kristen Bell’s Hollywood filmmaker shrills.
Here, Robin is below Batman’s utility belt and Bat-mobile in studio schedules and can only watch from the sidelines as a hilariously plausible ‘Alfred: The Movie’ trailer is met with rapturous applause from the likes of Superman (Nicolas Cage), Wonder Woman (Halsey) and Batman (Jimmy Kimmel) himself. In a theme straight from Lego Batman, the main concern here is the need for a hero to have an arch nemesis. Without one, the Teen Titans can’t hit the big time. It’s all very knowing; sometimes clever, often awkward.
A rapid reference rate – Green Lantern! Stan Lee! The Iced Gem biscuit bear? – have a tendency to belie a film that’s a tad out of touch with contemporary developments. Besides Robin, the best known of the Titans is Cyborg, a recent participant of the Justice League film and so hardly an overlooked hero.
Likewise, following Deadpool, this is the second film of the year to spoof the now iconic ‘my mom’s name was Martha too’ twist of Batman vs Superman. Regardless, most of this surely will fly over the heads of the intended audience. For every witty breaking of the fourth wall, there’s a lame one. Ingenuity is a notable absentee here.
When not lampooning Hollywood’s dependence on comic book cinema, the film is content in intravenously supplying it. Upbeat songs pepper the action, which is itself bolstered by innocuous sequences that help the film reach its feature length. One time-travel escapade is particularly pointless.
Teen Titans Go! is at its best when delivering riotous fun. A Lion King parody, stylised as a callback to the nineties animated Batman series, is as joyful as Captain Underpants’ fart orchestra, whilst Super Girl’s response to being asked, on the red carpet, what she’s wearing is priceless. It’s an occasional flash of inspiration which saves the film.
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