Sidekicks steal the show
Admittedly, I have a soft spot for cartoons anyway, but I don’t normally opt for them at the cinema unless I’m at a really loose end. That’s how I got to a 10.40am showing of Teen Titans Go! To The Movies, but honestly, even that title – people don’t normally capitalise on that kind opportunity and it was that which drew me in.
For those completely at a loss, Teen Titans Go! is a DC cartoon based on a team of young superheroes, led by Batman’s sidekick, Robin. It’s a good enough cartoon in its own right but not one that you’d ever have thought deserved a movie – their best moment was referencing the previous version of Teen Titans as a cartoon show, questioning their reality.
This film outing for Robin, Cyborg, Raven, Starfire and Beast Boy keeps the animation style, but constantly mixes it up with different styles to represent dreams, homemade movies and music videos. It moves at lightning speed, all singing (we’ll come back to that), dancing and brightly coloured, which ought to hold the attention of kids hopped up on sugar.
The story follows Robin’s desire to have his own movie in a world where even Batman’s utility belt has a movie. It pokes so much fun at the whole superhero genre film that even Stan Lee pops up with his usual cameo – this time for the rival comic corporation. Meanwhile, the villain’s main plot revolves around blasting a superhero movie at humans all over the globe to take control of their minds – a rather poignant jab at the movie industry whether they meant it or not.
‘This kids cartoon line of action might be where DC could really enjoy some success again’
You may not recognise the voice cast of the Titans, but how about Will Arnett, Kristen Bell and Nicolas Cage? Those are the kind of big names we’re talking about; there’s even a spot for British comedian Greg Davies as Balloon Man. Special mention goes to Michael Bolton for lending his pipes to the super-catchy song ‘Upbeat’ in which he voices the white tiger – this song will be in your head for days but in an uplifting 80s kind of way.
Things may start out a little childish (be prepared for fart jokes), but the comedic quips come thick and fast both verbally and visually in more intelligent, irreverent ways. Following the ethos of the cartoon series, it doesn’t hold back from being bizarrely wacky, an example of which is time-travel tricycles powered by radness – it’s all so throwaway and yet so refreshingly entertaining. Will Arnett, despite playing the Lego version of Batman, brings the fun as evil ‘Slade’ who is more commonly known in the DC Universe as Deathstroke. He sort of looks like Deadpool and the Titans even make fun of this with him in the film, and it’s that self-aware type of humour which will suit parents more than kids, making it enjoyable for all.
There is a message in all of the chaos – as with most films for kids – and that is to stick with your family and do what you do best. It’s a well-worn message and it seems like the writers know it, rolling the credits over Robin’s final speech while other characters chide him for rambling.
In a world where DC is woefully chasing the capes of the Marvel gang, this kids cartoon line of action might be where they could really enjoy some success again. We’ve had the super serious comic book films, we’ve had the R-rated comic book films and we’ve even had the most comic book-esque kind of comic book films – so poking fun at their own lesser properties (anyone even heard of Challengers of the Unknown?) is an easy win. Just look at The Lego Batman Movie which was better received than nearly all of the more recent DC films.
I’m not that interested in a moody Aquaman, an angry Affleck Batman or Leto’s Joker; just give me more of this inconsequential, juvenile and meta cartoon and I’ll be happy. No Oscars, no overly artistic animation, just a bundle of fun. Even Marvel can’t make a film this enjoyable.