Review of Illumination Entertainment’s The Super Mario Bros. Movie
Ever since the announcement of The Super Mario Bros. Movie and the subsequent cast in September of 2021, fans were ecstatic that the culturally defining game was coming to the big screen in an animated form.
However, the announcement that Nintendo would be partnering with Illumination Entertainment raised speculation as the studio’s track record has been critically subpar at best when creating compelling animated stories.
Fans also had mixed feelings about the casting choices though this leaned more toward the positive side with the revelation that comedic legends Jack Black and Seth Rogen would be playing Bowser and Donkey Kong.
It seems that no animated film based on a franchise has ever had so many audiences to consider and please with their final product.
As many remember, the last time the Mario games were adapted to a feature film, it resulted in what many call one of the worst video game movies of all time with the 1993 film Super Mario Bros.
That being said, it seems that The Super Mario Bros. Movie has won the hearts of many fans and moviegoers alike with its impeccable casting, astonishing animation, and unwavering charm.
Even if you’ve never picked up a Mario game in your life, it’s hard not to be familiar with the classic characters and basic story.
Taking place in the mythical Mushroom Kingdom, Mario and his brother Luigi are two plumbers living in a fantastical world with anthropomorphic mushroom creatures, flying turtles, and ghosts with vampire teeth.
Their objective throughout most of the games is to rescue the kingdom’s beloved Princess Peach from the evil Bowser who kidnaps her, leaving Mario and Luigi to race through a variety of platform-based levels until they arrive at Bowser’s castle.
The movie follows a similar mold but elaborates on Mario and Luigi’s backstory a little more than the games ever had, showing the brothers living in Brooklyn and struggling to get their plumbing business afloat.
The down-on-their-luck brothers are then transported to a magical world and separated in the process, leaving Luigi in the captivity of Bowser with Mario and the citizens of the Mushroom Kingdom to save him, while stopping Bowser’s incoming invasion.
From the very first frame, viewers are injected with color as the warm tones of a Brooklyn day fit perfectly alongside the bold, signature red and green of Mario and Luigi’s outfits.
The first 20 minutes are slow as we’re exploring unfamiliar territory for the Mario Brothers being their home life and backstory but once we enter the Mushroom Kingdom, the film skyrockets into a multi-colored, fast-paced, adventure just like the games we know and love.
Jack Black as expected delivers a stand-out performance as the King of Koopas himself and even sings a chaotic love ballad dedicated to Anya Taylor-Joy’s Princess Peach, certifying Black even more as being born to play this role.
Anya Taylor-Joy’s more active take on the pleasantly passive princess is wonderful to watch as she shows audiences including those who have dissed Princess Peach for years that femininity is not equated with weakness.
Her kindness, smarts, and undying dedication to protect the Toads from Bowser’s wrath make her an easy favorite among the iconic Mario crew while still staying true to her character in the games.
Many have criticized Chris Pratt’s performance as Mario, some saying his lack of commitment to a defined voice distracted from the character’s individuality as Mario is known for his high-pitched Italian accent.
Charlie Day who voiced Luigi didn’t deliver the character’s typical deeper Italian accent but did thoroughly conceptualize Luigi’s disposition with a more timid, unsure voice.
Even so, the two managed to create such chemistry between these brothers which is something the duo has not always been known for as many fans of the games acknowledge that Mario seems to be a bit of a show-off and doesn’t really look out for his little bro.
One of the first characters ever associated with the Mario games, Donkey Kong made an appearance in the film as well voiced by Seth Rogen who added his signature laugh to the character, which was certainly a delightful addition.
Keegan-Michael Key as Toad was decent as well though our favorite adorable Mushroom didn’t get a ton of screen time and when he did it was usually to make forgettable bordering on cringe worthy jokes.
The jokes and writing of the film are probably its weakest element as they try to carelessly pander to both adult and kid audiences. The nihilistic Luma that many have seen from the trailer tries to be funny but just grows annoying after a while.
The film desperately needed more character mixing. Certain scenes especially between Bowser and Luigi and Mario and Donkey Kong provided tension and even had the potential for some emotional moments.
However, these scenes were cut short in order to keep up with the quick pace of the film which is another attribute critics are displeased with.
Another pattern in negative critical reviews surrounding the film is that there really is no story that we haven’t seen before of the good guys having to defeat the bad guys. But do we really need more than that from a Mario movie?
The creator of our favorite overalled-plumber, Shigeru Miyamoto, was heavily involved with the film as a co-prouder and emphasized that a massive, complex story was not necessary for the film.
“We don’t need to know every detail about Mario’s life, because, Miyamoto reasons, we just want to live in his world. The Mushroom Kingdom, as odd as its wobbly creatures and fireball-sprouting flowers are, is one we now see as familiar”, The Los Angeles Times writes.
When it comes down to it, The Super Mario Bros. Movie isn’t for the avant-garde-loving film critic, it’s for the fans of the games who’ve always dreamed of seeing the Mushroom Kingdom on the big screen.
If you’re looking for an animated movie that has goofy gags as well as poignant emotional moments a Pixar movie would be better suited.
But if you’re feeling nostalgic and want a good old-fashioned fun time at the movies, The Super Mario Bros. Movie is right up your alley.