Review: The Super Mario Bros. Movie

A strong collaboration between Nintendo and Illumination Studios; the film is a lot of fun!

The “Super Mario Brothers” are a two-brother team of plumbers in Brooklyn, hoping to take the plumbing world by storm with their skills. But when they are sucked into another dimension, they have a lot more to deal with than leaky pipes!

With three directors, Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic (Teen Titans Go! to the Movies) and Pierre Leduc (Illumination Studios Art Director behind Despicable Me) as well as heavy involvement from legendary Nintendo creators such as Shigeru Miyamoto, the Mario movie has been in development for a long time.
Of course, Nintendo has had an awkward past with movies: 1993 saw the infamous Super Mario Bros movie, with Bob Hoskins, and the lesser known The Wizard in 1989. Now, with this new movie, the controversy was hot with the announcement that Mario would be voiced by Hollywood go-to actor Chris Pratt. Which to many felt like a flat-footed decision made purely for marketing purposes.

But, is this movie an example of history repeating, or is it… good??

Mario and Luigi on the big screen
The Super Mario Brothers are as cute as buttons.

It is a good movie!
And to answer the burning questions: No, Chris Pratt isn’t the worst thing about it. Is it better than the recent Sonic the Hedgehog movies? Absolutely yes. But it isn’t without flaws.

The movie barrels along at a quick pace; a lot happens in the ninety minute runtime. The film does follow the “fish-out-of-water” storyline, with the brothers Mario and Luigi starting out in Brooklyn and working as plumbers, and then progressing to them having to adapt in the Mushroom Kingdom. The film has few breaks once this transition happens, although it isn’t as relentless as other Illumination Studio productions (looking at you, Minions)
The visuals of the movie are completely spot-on. Nintendo-aesthetics are adhered to extremely well, with dozens of references subtle and otherwise. We see nods to multiple games in the franchise, but used as means to progress story or to enable exciting sequences and fights. Most notable are references to Mario Kart, Super Mario 3D World, and the Paper Mario series.

It hosts a loaded cast as well, besides Pratt we also have Anya Taylor-Joy as Princess Peach, Jack Black as King Bowser, Seth Rogen as Donkey Kong, and Charlie Day as Luigi. They all do a good job, but especially Jack Black as the villainous tyrant, Bowser, who easily… easily steals the show. Bowser was clearly very lovingly adapted for the movie. Someone knew what they were doing!

Princess Peach and Toad
Princess Peach means business.

But it isn’t all Super Shines and Rainbow Roads. With development hells comes cracks, even subtle ones, and Illumination Studios perhaps had a different vision for the project before Nintendo pumped the brakes on those plans. The first five or ten minutes are resoundingly… “Illumination > Nintendo”. There was an edge of fear going forward that this would be a spoof rather than an adaptation.
There’s also the music… Now, Nintendo has gorgeous music. Listen to the Super Mario Galaxy soundtrack, it is beautiful. This film uses orchestrated versions of Nintendo music, both subtly and bombastically, and these are wonderful. It also uses… AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck”? “Take On Me” by A-ha. Now, these are awesome tracks in their own right… but they really don’t fit here, and definitely feel like Illumination’s creative choice.
There’s also an edge of “expanding” the lore of Mario, which seemed odd. The origins of Princess Peach? Mario and Luigi’s family? It is all a little… unnecessary when you have a plumber fighting a giant turtle.

But, it is a lot of fun, and it is a great representation of Nintendo’s beloved mascot. Even though Bowser definitely owns the movie, as he rightfully should.

3.5 out of 5 stars

Additional Marshmallows: Basically all of the Mario “quotes” from the trailers… the ones people really didn’t like… were missing from the movie. Either this was done post-haste, or the trailer was designed to cause Internet drama. We might never know.

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