The concept behind Teen Titans Go! & DC Super Hero Girls: Mayhem in the Multiverse isn’t a bad one: Take two cartoon team franchises and have them meet. Bonus points for using a currently hot buzzword, albeit one Marvel has had much more success with. (One’s cynical side supposes that Warner Bros. Entertainment wanted to be sure that their cross-town competitors didn’t get exclusive rights to the idea, as most people have been introduced to the Multiverse concept via the recent Spider-Man: No Way Home and Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness movies.)
Unfortunately, what we really have here is a DC Super Hero Girls movie with a few Teen Titans Go! interludes thrown in (to keep the audience awake, if my experience is anything to go by). Which is a shame, as the snark and fourth-wall-breaking of the latter team is much more interesting than the pedestrian 'let’s fight villains and learn something about ourselves' approach of the former.
I used to love the DC Super Hero Girls stories, but in 2019, they redid the character designs and concepts in conjunction with a new cartoon series developed by Lauren Faust (My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic). The universe was diminished to six main characters from its previous wide-ranging collection of young women heroes, and instead of all school kids together, there was a much more restrictive division of heroes and villains. Similarly, the stories took a much more conventional, predictable approach, to go with the flatter, more exaggerated designs.
So imagine my lack of enjoyment at discovering that the Teen Titans Go! part of this movie was a minimal part of its running time.
They do get to start the film off. Robin (voiced by Scott Menville), Raven (Tara Strong), Cyborg (Khary Payton), Starfire (Hynden Walch), and Beast Boy (Greg Cipes) are enthusing over an antique media center and its shelving for "obsolete physical media".
This is my favorite thing about Teen Titans Go!, the humor that comes from seeing them engage in everyday activities. Also, I enjoy the snarky fourth-wall-breaking comments, as when Robin thinks a villain might "twist us into a gritty live-action series targeted at adult audiences" and Raven says "That's been done. So gritty."(That's a Titans reference, by the way.)
Then they dissect the concept of the super hero team crossover event before we swap to the more straightforward, simplistic DC Super Hero Girls universe for almost half an hour. That team consists of Wonder Woman (voiced by Grey Griffin), Batgirl (Tara Strong again), Supergirl (Nicole Sullivan), Bumblebee (Kimberly Brooks), Green Lantern (Myrna Velasco), and Zatanna (Kari Wahlgren).
The introduction isn't compelling. I didn’t know who all the characters were -- particularly all the villains -- and many of them were never named. My biggest mistake was thinking the kid who looks like a Stephen Universe rip-off was Billy Batson, but it turned out to be Garth/Aqualad.
Plot time! Lex Luthor (Will Friedle) has a magic amulet that evokes the Kryptonian goddess of ‘darkness, blight, and suffering’, Cythonna (Missi Pyle). (There’s some Supergirl dialogue hand-waving away why a scientific civilization has legends of goddesses and magic.) Luthor assembles a bunch of villains into the Legion of Doom and sends them out to capture heroes using the magic purple jewel. Most of the superheroes are sent into the Phantom Zone, ‘that creepy limbo dimension’. You can see some of this in the trailer, but it gives away a lot of the best bits.
The DC Super Hero Girls, in the requisite action sequence, quickly wipes the floor with a bunch of Superman robots, which seems like power posturing. ‘See? These girls are more powerful than Superman-ish characters!’ Except for Batgirl, who comes off as unnecessary, since Bumblebee is now the tech genius, and even a bit ditzy.
The Justice League appears in order to get captured. The best part of their team was the voice acting. Batman (Keith Ferguson) speaks in mumbles, and Aquaman (Will Friedle) is a Matthew McConaughey-style hippie and Zatanna’s crush object. I found myself missing the Teen Titans, as their world is a lot more fun.
When we finally get back to that team, they’re complaining about not being in the crossover. Yes! I agree! But at least they kept me from drifting off out of boredom, particularly once they started a musical number. That’s a lot more entertaining than the Super Hero Girls spending more time worrying about how they get along than saving ALL THE OTHER superheroes. There are also some plot threads tied up from their cartoon series, in case you’re wondering where these other conflicts came from.
If you want to see the actual crossover, it happens 50 minutes into this 80-minute movie. Seeing Zatanna and Raven angst out together was enjoyable, if too little too late. Teen Titans Go! & DC Super Hero Girls: Mayhem in the Multiverse is written by Jase Ricci and directed by Matt Peters and Katie Rice.
The home media release extras are three cartoon episodes: DC Super Hero Girls: #SmallVictories and Teen Titans Go!: Titan Saving Time and Operation Tin Man.
The movie is now available on Blu-ray, DVD, or a favorite streaming service. It will debut on HBO Max on June 28.