Whether you’re familiar with the Teen Titans Go! animated series or not, their big-screen debut is one worth considering when choosing what to go see this weekend for two reasons: it sees DC Studios on pleasingly self-deprecating form, and Nicolas Cage finally gets to play, or at least voice, Superman, the role he was infamously denied with Tim Burton’s cancelled 1990s project Superman Lives. Teen Titans Go! To The Movies follows a group of sidekicks struggling with credibility issues. Under the leadership of Robin, they decide they’re in need of an arch nemesis in order to prove their worth and to ultimately, like their superhero contemporaries, get a movie of their own.
On the downside, this animated semi-musical is tonally muddled, swerving between a litany of immature scatological gags and a series of meta cinematic Easter Eggs. One minute you’re being bombarded with hyperactive sequences featuring faecal jokes which clearly aim to woo the young and attention-deficient; the next, you’re being treated to the casual murdering of Aquaman via plastic six-pack rings and a prolonged Back to the Future bit that will go straight over the target audience’s heads. The two sides disappointingly never balance out.
As problematic as this is, there’s a memorably daft song sequence featuring a drumming dolphin and an 1980s saxophone, and a great beat in which one of the team berates Superman’s folks for being horrible parents. It’s far from as satisfying as The Lego Movie, which remains the high-water mark when it comes to kid-friendly animation with an adult-pleasing satirical edge; nor does it urgently need to be seen on a big screen. Still, it’s a cheekily post-modern subversion of DC’s own properties, as well as a cathartic send-up of the ubiquitous superhero genre and our obsession with it… all in a taut 88 minutes. Not half bad for a bunch of caped teens.
Teen Titans Go! To The Movies | Directed by Peter Rida Michail & Aaron Horvath (US, 2018), with Scott Menville, Tara Strong, Will Arnett, Kristen Bell. Starts August 16.
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