Teen Titans Go! To the Movies (Spoiler-Free)

SpoilerFree

I didn’t intend to see this movie. I didn’t really hear much about this film aside from it existing. But, I was walking back past the theater and it was the next film that started that seemed worth seeing. And I could not have been more pleasantly surprised.

So, I loved the original Teen Titans cartoon. I thought it was well-crafted, well-animated, well-voiced, had great characters that were complex while still being relatable, and had some great plotlines that allowed all those things to shine. But, it came to an end and was reborn as Teen Titans Go! which was… different. Truthfully, I only watched like 3 episodes of the new show (one of which was about assembling a sandwich, another about waffles, and another that was about thwarting a pizza boy, so food is clearly a big thing in the show) before stopping because I just didn’t think it was that funny. It was lighter, to be sure, and definitely was supposed to be a comedy rather than a superhero show, but it was not my thing. Even with the same voice actors (WHO ARE ALL AMAZING), it still just didn’t grab me.

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The left one has over 200 episodes. The right one had 65. Would you have guessed that?

Then I watched this movie. If someone could tell me that the rest of the series after I quit watching was like this film, I would probably go binge it all right now. Hell, I probably will anyway, because this was actually pretty well done. Is it perfect? No, but it was funny and original, which is more than I can give most comedies.

SUMMARY (SPOILERS IF YOU HAVE LITERALLY NEVER SEEN A TRAILER)

So, in the Teen Titans universe, every superhero has a movie (and the real ones are parodied and mocked mercilessly) despite also being real superheroes. One person who really wants their own movie is Robin (Scott Menville), leader of the Teen Titans, consisting of Beast Boy (Greg Cipes), Starfire (Hynden Walch), Raven (Tara Strong), and Cyborg (Khary Payton). The movie consists mostly of them trying to get a movie made, part of which is finding their arch nemesis in the form of Slade (Will Arnett), a villain trying to take over the world, and part of it is convincing Director Jade Wilson (Kristen Bell) to make the movie.

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Will Arnett is just gold for animated superhero comedies.

END SUMMARY

First off, this movie is a DC Fan’s dream. There are references to DC comics, movies, and TV series in basically every shot of the city, ranging from the obvious (Mr. Freeze Pops) to the obscure (The Challengers of the Unknown are actually a minor plot point!) to the ridiculous (there’s a poster for the film Jonah Rex, a T-Rex version of Jonah Hex that should totally be real). There are animation sequences designed to mimic the live-action movies, the DC Animated Universe, the Arrowverse TV Shows, and even Superfriends. The cameos are so frequent I think it’s harder to think of a property that WASN’T in the movie than one that was. And so much of them are used as in-universe product placements that it really makes me think that this entire world runs on superheros. If you’re like me and you think that postmodern style mashups between all of these properties can be funny, then you will be laughing throughout… often at jokes that nobody else got. Laugh anyway.

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There are like 30 references in this one screen shot if it’s in HD.

Second, there are the meta-gags. There are so many of these sprinkled throughout, like everyone mistaking Slade for Deadpool (because Deadpool was a rip-off of Slade’s identity of Deathstroke) or calling Superman (voiced by Nicolas Cage) a “National Treasure.” There are at least two “this is Nicolas Cage voicing Superman” jokes that I caught and I’m sure there are more. There are countless jokes about how much DC and Marvel are willing to exploit their IP as much as possible. There is a cameo that makes fun of Stan Lee cameos. There are jokes about the fact that people will continually see superhero films at the expense of any other form of entertainment. There’s even a running gag about how overpowered Raven is and lampshading how boring a movie of a character like that fighting villains onscreen might actually be. The jokes just keep coming, sometimes buried under other jokes.

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A reminder that Cage loves Superman so much, his son Kal-El Cage is IN THIS FILM.

Then there are just the bizarre gags, like having an 80s-style song called “Upbeat Inspirational Song About Life” by MICHAEL FREAKING BOLTON  that plays out like you’re on LSD or having the group poop in a prop toilet on a movie set. They’re mostly for the kids but, like I said, sometimes they’re actually just the set-up for a much better joke. And the last line of the film made me laugh for like 5 straight minutes, because it was just such a bizarre shot at children’s movie moralizing. There are also several that I don’t think I got because I didn’t really watch the show, but the fact that they mostly were still entertaining was a good sign.

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That’s Michael Bolton as a Siberian Tiger playing the keytar on a rainbow fountain.

It honestly made me think of Arrested Development in the way that the humor was just kind of shotgunned at you from every direction. It just wasn’t quite as clever as the writing on Arrested Development, but, again, it’s ostensibly a kids’ movie. Some of the jokes had to be made for kids, but I don’t think they all really speak down to them. Maybe a better comparison is The Lego Batman Movie: you can enjoy it as is and think it’s funny, but the more you know about the property and the world in general, the more you enjoy the movie. Granted, Lego Batman was a better film in general, but that’s a really high bar.

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Can’t beat a movie with the Condiment King in it.

The casting in the movie is perfect, with most of the characters being voiced not by people who would play them in movies, but by people who just love the characters they’re voicing. It gives even the minor cameos a passion that adds something to the experience.

As to the plot, it comes off less as a traditional film and more a collection of 15-minute episodes that loosely interconnect until the 30-minute finale, but, honestly, it worked out great, because you never got bored nor knew exactly what gag was going to come next.

Overall, the only real “problem” with the movie is that it is still a kids’ film. The humor is either referential or juvenile, without a ton of other jokes for people who don’t love DC and are old enough that a 2-minute fart joke is 90 seconds too long. But, I still enjoyed it from start to finish. Hell, there are probably 3 scenes in it that are so funny that I would recommend seeing the movie just to see them.

If you love comic books or have kids, you need to see this movie. Oh, and if *SPOILER* the end credit stinger is true, and we are getting a sixth season of the original Teen Titans show (which Cartoon Network started re-running last year, so it’s very possible), then just finding out about that early might be worth the ticket price.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

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Author Bonus: 22a) Holly Jolly Secrets/I Remember You (Adventure Time)

Hey, guess what? YET ANOTHER ADD-ON. This makes 5, and this one’s actually a double. Aren’t you folks lucky that you’re getting so much more content that I’m pretty sure nobody reads? (Update: Okay, so, I do have readers now. And they’re all smart and attractive.). While one of these, “Holly Jolly Secrets,” did air before I wrote the original list, despite its merit, it didn’t become one of the best episodes ever until its emotional set-up was finally, truly, cashed in on by “I Remember You.” Since this is an add-on, I’m going to just go ahead and pair them. It’s my list, I do what I want.

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And I’m wearing this outfit

Adventure Time started as the single most generic fantasy show ever. It takes place in the enchanted land of Ooo, which is populated largely by princesses, magic creatures, and

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He was cuddly

whatever random thing can have a face drawn on it. However, it also is one of the best examples ever of the term “Cerebus Syndrome.” Cerebus Syndrome is named after a comic called Cerebus the Aardvark which started off as light and fun stories of a mischievous aardvark, then eventually revealed that all of the light and fun stuff had actually had huge consequences resulting in literal genocide, and ends with the main character being dragged off to what appears to be Hell. Basically, it’s when something moves from “kids’ show” to “adult,” or, if you’re from my generation, it moves from “90s Don Bluth” to “80s Acid-tripping Don Bluth.” The whole process of tone shift starts when it’s revealed that Ooo is not a different world, it’s actually Earth after the “Great Mushroom War,” which is revealed to be the nuclear war that blew a visible chunk out of the world and poisoned everything. Again, kids’ show.

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We ask the REAL questions here

The main characters are: Finn the Human (Jeremy Shada), a young boy, later a young man, originally believed to be the only human; Jake the Dog (John DiMaggio), his shapeshifting “brother;” Princess Bubblegum (Hynden Walch), the science savvy but ethically-challenged-at-times ruler of the Candy Kingdom; Marceline the Vampire Queen (Olivia Olson), the 1000-year-old half-demon rock goddess; BMO (Niki Yang), an artificial intelligence robot with a child-like mind; and the Ice King (Tom Kenny), a crazy wizard with ice powers and an obsession with kidnapping princesses.

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SUMMARY

“Holly Jolly Secrets” starts off with Finn and Jake digging up a box of VHS tapes that the Ice King had buried. They return home to watch them, only for the Ice King, who doesn’t adventuretimeholly.pngremember burying them, to find out that Finn and Jake are watching “secret tapes” and wants to join them, unaware that they’re his. The episode mostly focuses on Finn and Jake listening to these tapes, which turn out to be Ice King’s boring video diary, while Ice King schemes to get into their house, using various Christmas themes (despite the fact that Christmas doesn’t exist in Ooo). Eventually, however, they get to the last tape, and the episode suddenly shifts. The last tape shows a man who vaguely resembles the Ice King. The man identifies AdventureTimeSimonhimself as archeologist Simon Petrikov, a man who bought a crown and put it on as a joke for his girlfriend. It turns out that the crown is cursed, and, while it gives him ice magic, it also drives him slowly insane. As the tape plays out, we are shown a man slowly losing his grip on reality, his form shifting more and more to resembling the Ice King, and the background showing us the apocalyptic war, until finally, Simon is shown screaming that he knows he’s going to “do things that hurt [people]”, and he begs their forgiveness because he can’t help it. At the same time, we’re shown that he also is screaming for his lost “princess,” his fiancé Betty, explaining why he feels a compulsion to kidnap princesses.

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Now, up until this point, the audience didn’t really know much about the Ice King except that he’s weird and often the antagonist. In this episode, we find out that he’s literally the victim of something out of his control, and he’s screaming for help from within the labyrinth of his mind. A later episode shows that this is literal: His mind lives inside a maze in the crown that he cannot leave. It’s rare for any show to so completely re-contextualize a character, and this show does it in 30 minutes. An amazing accomplishment, managing to show that the villain is just another victim, and reminding the audience that the people we think are evil may just be in pain. This would be a fine set of laurels to rest upon with Ice King, but the writers decided to one-up themselves hard in the episode “I Remember You.”

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“I Remember You” starts with the Ice King wanting to write a song in order to get the princesses to like him. This is a weird, but childish premise. He then decides to grab a AdventureTimeMarcybunch of his “old lyric notes for inspiration” and solicit Marceline the Vampire Queen for help. When he arrives, he is confronted by Finn and Jake who try to drive him off before being told by her that Ice King can stay. Finn and Jake leave, and Ice King starts to sing a song about his love of princesses, which slowly devolves into him crying about how alone and unloved he feels before randomly lashing out. Marceline tells him to “stop acting crazy,” and the Ice King flees her, scared. Marcy sings the song “Nuts” which reveals that she has spent AdventureTimeNuts.jpg1000 years periodically trying to hang out with him, but that his insanity inevitably drives her away until he tracks her down again. But, despite that, she still loves him and is happy to see him, leading her to question if she’s actually the one who’s crazy for her lack of self-preservation instincts. She then confronts him with his real identity, Simon Petrikov, only to find that despite his predisposition to find her, he doesn’t actually remember their history together or even his own.

Okay, so, this is pretty sad so far, but not into “I’m going to drink another beer and two shots after writing this review” sad. But, unfortunately for my liver, Marceline then finds that, among the papers that Ice King brought over is a letter addressed to her as a child, Adventure_Time_-_I_Remember_You.pngapologizing for what he is going to do.  Ice King, not realizing it’s a letter, convinces her to sing it, leading to one of the most heartbreaking songs I’ve ever heard, including the chorus “Please forgive me for whatever I do… when I don’t remember you.” The audience is then treated to a flashback of a child Marcy standing alone in the wreckage of the nuclear apocalypse, being given a stuffed animal by a still only partially cursed Simon Petrikov, with us knowing what he’ll eventually deal with.

END SUMMARY

It’s Alzheimer’s. The episode is about Alzheimer’s. The writers may not have intended it, but they nailed it. Ice King’s condition, while it makes him feel sad and alone, is more torturous on those who love him and have to see how he is just an unstable shadow of his former self than it is on him. You will hold out hope that maybe they can see you and remember you, and maybe for a few minutes you can feel like they do, but then they slide back into delirium and it breaks your heart all over again. Sometimes they’ll be afraid of you because you’re a stranger to them. Sometimes you’ll see them believe that there’s nobody who loves or cares about them because they just don’t remember it. And sometimes you’ll be standing in front of someone, knowing that they’re here, but not really here. You’ve lost them without losing them. This episode does in 12 minutes what entire books on the subject have trouble doing. If you aren’t heartbroken at the end, I don’t know if you’re human.

PREVIOUS – 23a: BoJack Horseman

NEXT – 20: Chappelle’s Show

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Nuts/I Will Remember You: