Teen Titans Go! vs. Teen Titans review

When there’s trouble, you know who to call…

The Teen Titans, of course.

Close to a decade and a half after they went off the air– and a year after being teased at the end of the delightfully silly Teen Titans Go! To the Movies–the stars of the Teen Titans television series are back and prepared to face some new adversaries: themselves.

Or at least tiny baby versions of themselves, in their words.

Robin, Starfire, Raven, Cyborg, and Beast Boy are back in the new movie Teen Titans Go! vs. Teen Titans, as the two teams face off against one another to prove who is the superior group… before having to join forces against a greater threat.

Does that sound super serious and heavy?  If so, it should come as no surprise that this movie is not.

At all.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

It isn’t as sharp as Teen Titans Go! To the Movies, but it’s still plenty of goofy, high-energy fun.

Which is evident right from the start, with an opening scene featuring Gentleman Ghost.  Ol’ Jim Craddock is using his ability (as made up for the movie) to take control of people’s bodies so he can rob banks and stuff.  Granted, this skill is more up Deadman’s ally, but I’m willing to roll with it because of the great gags in this sequence.

Oh, and because Gentleman Ghost is voiced by “Weird Al” Yankovic, the greatest musical genius of our time.  So yeah, this movie has two huge marks in the “win” column right off the bat.

Eventually, Ghost takes over Raven’s body and, in exploring her subconscious, accidentally causes her gem to crack.  This releases the monster she tries so desperately hard to suppress, which causes her some genuine concern and distress.  At this point it becomes pretty clear that this is a Teen Titans Go! movie, though that’s hardly surprising, and even more it’s a Raven movie.  She’s not necessarily the main character, as everyone in the ensemble gets their share of screentime, but she’s the impetus and catalyst for the overall story.

Honestly, I was a tad underwhelmed to see so much focus on Raven.  Not that I inherently dislike the character or anything, but the well of “she has a demon she’s trying to contain and wants nothing to do with her dad” has pretty much been tapped dry at this point.  Director Jeff Mednikow and writers Jeremy Adams and Marly Halpern-Graser manage to put a pretty interesting spin on it, though which is where the other Titans come into play.

Without going too far into the story details, Trigon is heavily involved, and as always he wants to tempt Raven to the dark side.  Knowing that he gem is fractured, though, he tempts her with a new promise: normalcy.  If Raven gives it up, Trigon will take her monstrous powers from her and she can be completely human.  After she rejects the offer, the Titans are beset upon by five mysterious figures from another dimension.  Naturally, they’re the OG Teen Titans, who have been roped into competing in a gladiatorial match by a mysterious figure known as the Master of Games.  If they succeed, their world lives.  If not… well, you can imagine.

Again, this is all sounding a lot more serious than it actually is, though I’ll give the movie credit: given that Teen Titans Go! isn’t exactly known for its airtight stories– or even a strong desire to have an actual plot to begin with (there’s an entire episode where Robin teaches the team about building up equity via investing in real estate)– they at least try to make some sense out of how and why these characters’ paths would intersect.  And the movie’s best laughs come from the  vast differences between the two teams, and how much thinly-veiled contempt the “bigger Robin” has for the smaller Titans.  It’s funny, too, because there was a time when the Teen Titans show was seen as too silly and irreverent, and now those Titans think their goofier counterparts are just too much.

You don’t come to a movie like this without expecting some big laughs, and it delivers all throughout.  Right from the hilarious opening sequence with Gentleman Ghost, the movie is a constant stream of jokes, both obvious and subtle.  True to the Teen Titans Go! TV show, some of the best jokes are background details or blink-and-you’ll-miss-it gags.  There’s a song that the two teams sing together, about how they’re all Titans and they need to work together, and some of the lyrics are hilariously brutal.  The very best thing about this property is that it knows exactly what it is, and the creators are not the least bit afraid to poke fun at its inherent silliness.

And silly it is.  As you’d expect, this is first and foremost a comedy, though it isn’t without a nice message at its center.  Surprisingly enough, Raven’s story is remarkably effective and has quite a bit of heart.  The movie never gets overly sentimental, but it still allows for some welcome character growth.  It’s a story that’s at once intimate and epic, with a climax that sees nothing less than the Titans from all across the Multiverse banding together to save the world, and even more, their friend.

The most impressive aspect of the movie, to me, was the quality of the voice acting.  It shouldn’t come as a surprise, of course, considering that the cast are seasoned vets and have been voicing these characters for the better part of two decades at this point.  It’s their ability to differentiate between the Titans that truly speaks to their skills, though, as the members of each team sound remarkably distinct.  Sure, you know you’re hearing, say, Khary Payton no matter which Cyborg is speaking, but the “older” character has a slightly deeper, mellower voice that contrasts with the Teen Titans Go! version.  It keeps the dialogue from running together and getting confusing, for one, but makes for some truly hilarious interactions between the characters.

As you’d expect, the funniest by far is the rivalry between the two Robins, and Scott Menville is absolutely brilliant in both roles.  They each have a constant need to exert their skill and authority, and the TTG Robin is always so on edge and anxious that he goes off at the slightest provocation.  I mean, remember his baby hands?  Despite his wishes, they have not actually moved beyond that.

Hynden Walch plays up the relative innocence and naivete of both Starfires, who bond over… pretty much everything, including (and especially) Silkie.  Tara Strong is the real standout, though, with a dual Raven performance that gives the movie its heart.  Each Raven is distinct in the timbre of their voice, yet share common fears that help them relate to one another.  The “bigger” Raven shows a great deal of compassion to her smaller counterpart, who wrestles with who she is, who she could be, and who she actually wants to be.  Strong’s performance as Raven is typically much more one-note and monotone– which is a conscious choice, not a knock against her actual delivery– yet she really manages to evoke a lot of sympathy here.

Like I said, though, the movie never gets so serious that it upsets the flow of the story.  There’s an extended excursion to the North Pole that is absolutely hilarious, and two original songs that are pretty fun.  The aforementioned tune where the Titans realize they need to work together, along with a short little ditty about how funny the word “worlogog” sounds (and a shocking revelation about why the team sing so many songs to begin with), are both serviceable and fun.  Neither is nearly as catchy as the inspirational song from Teen Titans Go! To the Movies or the absolute banger that is “The Night Begins to Shine,” but they’re still plenty fun.

Which is a good way to sum up this movie: it isn’t quite as sharp as it could have been, but it’s still a hilarious good time with quite a bit of heart.  It knows exactly what it is and what it wants to be, so if you’re into what it’s selling, you’re sure to enjoy it too.

Plus, again, I cannot say this enough: “Weird Al” voices Gentleman Ghost, and also there’s an appearance by the Tiny Titans.  It’s like the movie was tailor-made for me.

Overall: This is a hilarious movie, first and foremost, yet it also has quite a bit of heart.  I was surprisingly moved by Raven’s journey, along with the phenomenal voice acting from the cast, yet found myself laughing harder than I have since… well, probably Teen Titans Go! To the Movies.  The movie is loaded with gags and fun songs, and has plenty of references to various incarnations of the Titans that will make fans of all sorts take notice.  If you’re a fan of the Teen Titans cartoon, Teen Titans Go!, or both, then you’ll find plenty to love here.  Especially “Weird Al” as Gentleman Ghost.  Because really.

SCORE: 8/10


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