Unlike Deadpool, Robin the Boy Wonder does not drop F-bomb after F-bomb in Teen Titans Go! to the Movies. The Cartoon Network TV series’ cinematic debut is naturally more family-friendly than the R-rated Deadpool movies, but the flick is packed with surprisingly brutal, smart, and hilarious meta-humor that rivals the Merc With a Mouth. Also, plenty of butt jokes for kids who don’t care about dunking on DC’s moviemaking strategy.
Deadpool and its sequel broke the Fourth Wall, but Teen Titans Go! to the Movies is explicitly about the movie screen audiences are staring at. The film is straight-up about making a superhero movie, as Robin is desperate for his team (which comprises Starfire, Beast Boy, Cyborg, and Raven) to get a blockbuster of their own because that’s the only way to be recognized as a real hero. Superman explains that he has several, Wonder Woman notes that it took way too long for her to get her own, and Green Lantern proclaims that he had a movie, “but we… we don’t talk about that.”
At times, Teen Titans Go! to the Movies is savage, ripping apart superhero movie tropes and over-proliferation in general before going for specific DC properties’ jugular. During a visit to the Warner Bros. studio, after giving the Animaniacs a shout-out, the Teen Titans watch Batman and Superman film a BvS sequel. The duo reconciles upon learning that their moms have the same name — a nod to Dawn of Justice’s dumbest twist — before fighting again when they learn their dads don’t share a name.
Movie posters along a red carpet suggest that DC is scrapping the bottom of the barrel (a Detective Chimp movie, really?), which is a goofy joke until you remember that Warner Bros.’ current strategy appears to be throwing spaghetti at a wall and hoping something sticks. When Marvel movies get a shout-out, it’s clear that Teen Titans Go! thinks its punching up, a refreshing bit of meta self-awareness DC could use more of.
At one point in the film, a character says he was caught up in “Gene Hackman’s real estate scheme,” a nod to the plot of 1978’s Superman. Will kids get the reference? Understanding the meta-narrative and history of all these various franchises has become a big part of the superhero experience, but there are also plenty of standalone goofs that the less-obsessive viewer can enjoy. At one point, the heroes commit a felony hit-and-run while driving down the highway, and one of the movie’s first jokes involves a lengthy fart, followed by a bit of debate about what, exactly, qualifies as a one.
Adults who can’t laugh at a good fart joke need some more joy in their lives, but there are times when Teen Titans Go! to the Movies swings a little too dumb, even for kids. For the most part, it balances witty genre commentary with silly, immature bits, but there are maybe two or three too many butt-related jokes, a low point only because every other goof in the movie proves Teen Titans can do so much more.
Still, a couple butt jokes too many are nothing to get all worked up about, because there isn’t a look worse than complaining that a kids movie is, well, for kids. If anything, the more concerning that kids are expected to know the ins and outs of a giant corporation’s media offerings and keep track of various iterations of tons of distinct IPs going back decades in order to understand most of a movie’s best jokes. But we… we don’t talk about that.
This isn’t some big brain-washing conspiracy, the type that the villainous Slade tries to pull in the film’s climax. It’s just showing people what it is they want. Superheroes run Hollywood, and Teen Titans Go! to the Movies has a blast playing with our obsessions, doing so in a way that appeals to kids who are too young to see Deadpool and older superhero fans who want to see DC’s equivalent alike.
Teen Titans Go! to the Movies opens on July 27.