Friday 3 August 2018

"Teen Titans Go! To The Movies" (Guardian 03/08/18)

Teen Titans Go! To The Movies ***
Dirs: Aaron Horvath, Peter Rida Michail. Animation with the voices of: Greg Cipes, Tara Strong, Will Arnett, Kristen Bell. 93 mins. Cert: PG

For the uninitiated, the Teen Titans are the DC universe’s Muppet Babies: pint-sized, brashly animated avatars of Justice League hangers-on – Batman’s eternally derided sidekick Robin is the best known – whose knowing misadventures have set youngsters and stoners alike to cackling over several seasons on TV’s Cartoon Network. That their big-screen debut intends to operate closer to the irreverent spirit of studio Warners’ Looney Tunes than Zack Snyder is immediately signalled by an opening sight gag that appears to pre-empt rivals Marvel Studios’ familiar page-shuffling logo – only for the camera to pull back and show a seagull flicking disinterestedly through a comic.

The stage is hereby set for a brisk ninety minutes of metatextual mirth: a potential franchise-starter in which superheroes literally not big enough to land their own franchise take extreme measures to land their own franchise. Denied entry to the “Batman Again” premiere – attended by Batman, Superman (voiced, finally, by Nicolas Cage) and Wonder Woman – these Titans lay siege to Hollywood and travel back in time to rewrite key origin stories, starting by rerouting Bruce Wayne’s traditionally doomed parents away from Crime Alley and down Happy Lane. Narratives treated like the holiest of holies elsewhere become doodlepads for riffs and skits, odds and sods. A dream sequence lampoons Disney’s Africana; Stan Lee’s crowbarred cameos get increasingly desperate.

Arguably, these are the crumbs left behind when a major entertainment conglomerate has its cake and eats it, pointing out how ridiculous and repetitive superhero stories can be, even as the suits in the studio’s live-action arm are quietly pencilling in a Jonah Hex reboot for 2024. Still, with its committed fart and poop jokes, and one entirely gratuitous (yet not unamusing) attack on Shia LaBeouf, it’s encouraging to see someone at DC approaching this material as an opportunity for colourful fun rather than a grim matter of rights maintenance. A handful of jokes in this minipop Ragnarok, like the crack at Gene Hackman’s role in the 1978 Superman, land at the exact sweet spot where fond fanboy scholarship meets sublime goofiness.

Teen Titans Go! To The Movies opens in cinemas nationwide today. 

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