By all means, Teen Titans Go! To the Movies is a goofy and dumb kids' movie. But there's goofy and dumb, and then there's Goofy and Dumb, and there's something positively dazzling about how much inspiration screenwriters Aaron Horvath (who co-directs with Peter Rida Michail) & Michael Jelenic - also the creators of Teen Titans Go!, the Cartoon Network series that started in 2013, which has been given a slight face-lift on its way to the big screen - bring to bear on what is, when you get down to it, nothing but an hour and a half of non sequiturs and poop jokes.

The trick is that they're very good non sequiturs and poop jokes. Nay, some of the best poop jokes I have ever seen in a pointedly immature kids' comedy. The big showcase poop joke is positively elegant in its construction and timing, building four iterations of one joke and turning it on its head for the punchline, in a manner that feels like it could easily have shown up in a '30s comedy.* Except for the part where it's, like, a poop joke.

There's a plot here, so we might as well go over it, even though the film has a sugar-addled hummingbird's indifference to keeping it in mind at all times. The Teen Titans, one of the many superhero teams in the DC comic book universe, aren't very good at saving the world, but they are very enthusiastic about trying. This hasn't kept them from languishing on the D-list, and team leader Robin (Scott Menville), thinks he knows why: unlike superheroes from Batman to Superman to Batman to Wonder Woman to Batman to Aquaman, the Teen Titans have never been the stars of a movie. And so he travels to the Warner Bros. lot to beg Jade Wilson (Kristen Bell), the most important director of superhero movies alive, to give the Titans their own feature, which she refuses to do, since they're unknowns without even an arch-enemy. Luckily for them, the blade-wielding Slade (Will Arnett) has recently been making trouble, and he has the most important qualification to be an arch-enemy: his name sounds menacing when you say it loud and slow. Unfortunately, it turns out that Wilson only wants to make a movie starring Robin himself, and this puts a terrible wedge between him and his little-known friends Beast Boy (Greg Cipes), Cyborg (Khary Payton), Raven (Tara Strong), and Starfire (Hynden Walch).

This is, mind you, a very tidy version of a very frenetic movie. I have only seen enough of the television series to get a rough sense of how it works, but my sense is that even in ten-minute episodes, the series didn't have the patience to commit to a single throughline. Certainly, the feature-length film doesn't see the point in committing to any one thing for as long as ten minutes. The operating principle behind the film seems to be that anything Horvath & Jelenic came up with had a fair shot at making it into the film, as long as it was a parody of superhero fiction, pop culture, or the animation medium itself. Or just if it was a good gag at the expense of Robin, whose superhero power appears to be egocentrism.

I don't, frankly, know how to even go about discussing the film that comes out of this, without simply turning it into a laundry list of the gags I liked best, and that's no good: boring to read, and it steals all the fun out of the humor, which is sometimes extremely good, and sometimes extremely draining (I would not care for this 84-minute film to be even a frame longer, and I would not necessarily mind if it were somewhat shorter). One thing it's not is boring: there is always too much going on for that, and it changes often enough that if you don't like the movie right now, chances are that it will be a completely different movie sometime within the next five minutes.

And so we get the year's busiest grab-bag of animated stuff. There are jokes about how formulaic comic book movies are, and how increasingly ridiculous this notion of "expanded universe" storytelling has proven to be; there are jokes about Hollywood egos; there are jokes about farts and poop. There are at least five musical numbers, and in the general hubbub, I'm not sure that I didn't miss one or two, and they're all different: an enthusiastically dumb rap in which the Titans introduce their powers as the unimpressed Balloon Man (Greg Davies) goes on about the business of razing downtown Jump City; club music used to save the planet Krypton from exploding; an upbeat inspirational song about life done in some of the best faux-'80s pop music I've ever heard, sung by Michael Bolton. The film shifts aesthetics constantly, though it always reverts back to the flat, Flash-style animation favored by all Cartoon Network productions (though a glossier, grander version of that aesthetic; a friend of mine accurately pointed out that it's what Cartoon Network animation would look like if they were willing to spend money on it): meanwhile, it has a sequence parodying the anime-influenced Teen Titans cartoon that Teen Titans Go! replaced, another parodying Batman: The Animated Series, homages to the heinously cheap TV animation in the '80s (unsurprisingly accompanying the aforementioned '80s song) and to the very particular character animation of Disney in the '90s, cheerfully travestying one of that studio's most famous sequences. There's a short sequence that appears to have been stop-motion animated using cloth puppets. None of this is here just for the sake of being silly; or I don't know, maybe it is. But it feels very much like Teen Titans Go! To the Movies is making fun of the very notion of putting a Cartoon Network show in a movie theater, while also tipping its hand that it loves animation very much.

More than anything else, though, the movie is a poison-pen valentine to superheroes, both the ones at DC Comics and their longtime competitors at Marvel (the film mostly avoids MCU jokes, presumably to avoid the appearance of sour grapes, though it does get one pretty meanspirited jab in). The film gets that superheroes are ridiculous and overblown, and it loves that about them even as much as it clearly hates how omnipresent they've become in pop culture. It has the best "Martha" joke in all the long months of hack internet comedians mocking Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice; it turns the death of Bruce Wayne's parents into one of its funniest single gags. Basically, it's doing all the things that The Lego Batman Movie did, but it does them better, and without trailing off into sentimentalism. It definitely doesn't trail off into sentimentalism: the film commits to a humor of smug absurdity that it rides all the way into its credit sequence, merrily shitting on moralism and good feelings along the way. It is an act of aggression, and for a comedy for 8-year-olds this be this dedicated to nonsense humor just for the sheer joy of it... I tell you what, it gives a fella hope for future generations.

*Specifically, it feels very much like a poop joke version of the Maurice Chevalier gag in the Marx Brothers' Monkey Business.