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The Super Mario Bros. Movie Review (Spoiler Free)

Mario is back on the big screen & what a comeback it is! Granted, the story is simple but the easter eggs embedded are fun! It's an innocent adventure!

Genre: Adventure/ Animation / Comedy

Director: Aaron Horvath & Michael Jelenic

Cast: Chris Pratt, Charlie Day, Jack Black, Anya Taylor-Joy, Keegan-Michael Key, Seth Rogen, Khary Payton, Juliet Jelenic & Fred Armisen.

Run Time: 92 min.

US Release: 05 April 2023

UK Release: 07 April 2023

German Release: 05 April 2023


As stated in my previous review of the ‘93 live-action version, I am a 90s kid and grew up with all Nintendo! I am a big fan of these characters, which is why I was super pumped for this animated adaptation, after seeing the first teaser. Especially since the ‘93 flick was the reason why Nintendo stopped doing films of their property. Now that I finally saw it, is it any good? Well, it does nail several aspects, while also failing at others. One thing is for sure though, it will be a nostalgia ride for fans, as well as entertain a younger audience. Grab your mushrooms, as you pipe with me through my review for… The Super Mario Bros. Movie!


Mario, a Brooklyn plumber, traverses the Mushroom Kingdom with his anthropomorphic mushroom friend Toad and a human princess named Peach, in search of his lost brother Luigi, while simultaneously needing to save the world from the tyrannic fire-breathing King of the Koopa Bowser.


With the failure of the 1993 adaptation, Nintendo became careful of lending its characters for silver screen productions. In 2014, leaked emails after a hack in Sony Pictures, suggested that the studio had secured the rights to the gaming company’s properties, setting them into conflict with corporate sibling Sony Interactive Entertainment, which is one of Nintendo’s competitors. In 2016, Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto met with Chris Meledandri, head of Univeral’s Illumination animation division, to talk about a future Mario film.


Having found that Meledandri’s creative process is similar to his, Miyamoto reported back to Nintendo, leading to negotiations plus a rough production plan. Teen Titans Go! To the Movies directing/writing duo Horvath and Jelenic were hired to direct. They wanted to create an origin story, focusing on the icon’s previous background as Italian-American plumbers from Brooklyn, who stumble upon the Mushroom Kingdom. Writer Matthew Fogel then succeeded in capturing the gaming feel, wherein the players learn at each new level, from their mistakes.


This is an absolute celebration of the “Mario” franchise and its fans, adapting the games faithfully into a cinematic mode. The complete plot is filled with easter eggs to explore, without it feeling forced; little references from the late 80s Super Mario Brothers Super Show to Super Mario 3D World, Donkey Kong, Mario Kart, or even Luigi's Mansion, are included. The comedy is innocent, though effective in making audiences laugh.


That said, it also has a paper-thin narrative with no risks taken. Children will love it, fans of Nintendo will appreciate it, yet for anyone else outside that niche, it will be plain boring. It could have done with ten minutes more, focusing on the journey from the Mushroom Kingdom to the Jungle Kingdom. I also thought that the emotional payout did not work as well as the producers hoped it would.


I had my concerns about Chris Pratt when I saw the first trailer because he did not sound anything like Mario from the games. However, that is explained during the opening scene, helping to adjust Pratt’s voice to the character. The actor did an amazing job portraying the iconic mascot, giving him a lot of likeability. Pratt’s chemistry with co-lead Charlie Day, who gives a fantastic rendition of Luigi, is impeccable! Unfortunately, Luigi is sidelined early on, to the narrative’s detriment, as it was the dynamic of the brothers that worked best.


The character development in this flick is limited to Mario and Anya Taylor-Joy’s Peach, yet even those are mostly superficial. That said, Joy does give a compelling voice acting as the princess of the Mushroom Kingdom. Interchanging her usual role as the damsel in distress with that of Luigi, Peach is portrayed as a strong confident leader, able to defend herself. She is also the lead’s guide, mentoring him on how to journey through this world.


Best, though, is Jack Black as Bowser who absolutely nails it vocally! A tyrannical bully, his obsession with Peach, while borderline cringe, goes with what we know from the games. That said, I found the two musical skits out of character for the Koopa King.


The supporting cast is great! Keegan-Michael Key as Toad is a ton of fun, Seth Rogan as Donkey Kong is amusing, even Charles Martinet, the original voice actor of Mario, obtains a small cameo role.


The computer animation that is delivered is breathtakingly gorgeous. This might well be the best-looking picture by Illumination Entertainment! Not only did it stay true to the design of the characters, but the way the action was filmed - especially two sequences at the very beginning and final confrontation - were very reminiscent of the jump ‘n’ run platforming style the video games are known for. The kart racing sequence was pure, fast-paced energy. The colour is vibrant, as it should be for a “Mario” entity. The sequences on Bowser's castle plus the dark lands are more sombre, using shadows correctly.


The biggest surprise was the music, composed by Brian Tyler, who worked closely with longtime “Mario” composer Koji Kondo. The score included a lot of the soundtracks from the different games, reworked as orchestral tunes. Unnecessary were the many inclusions of popular songs by Bonnie Tyler, AC DC or others, to underline what is happening on screen. It felt out of place, as well as being too manipulative.

 

Verdict: Mario’s second cinematic outing feels like an event made for fans. Sadly, the script plays it too safe, unwilling to take risks, and as such creates a shallow story that looks more like a marketing stunt. However, in that, it absolutely succeeds! The plot is filled with visual easter eggs; from referencing other games to creatures and objects of the Mario World. The pacing is fast, maybe a little too fast at times, as the narrative could have benefited from a ten-minute longer runtime! The voice casting is top-notch, with everyone bringing their A-game to the table, properly representing the characters. There are two short moments, in which Black breaks out of his Bowser character, but other than that he gives a remarkable rendition of the Koopa King! The animation is stunningly beautiful, possibly Illumination’s best work to date! All in all, this is a simple, enjoyable time for smaller children and Nintendo fans. The Super Mario Bros. Movie obtains a 7.0 out of 10.


Have you seen the new Super Mario Bros. Movie? Are you a fan of the character? What did you think of it? Leave a comment in the section below & as always, thank you for reading!


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