The Super Mario Bros. Movie is Hollywood’s latest attempt at a video game movie. But does this one avoid the pitfalls of previous adaptations? Read on to find out.
Mario (Chris Pratt) and Luigi (Charlie Day) CHECK!!! are struggling plumbers from Brooklyn, NY. They’ve risked their livelihoods to start an independent business. And no one close to them believes in their chances for success. But a new world of possibilities awaits them when they’re sucked into a wondrous new dimension! Mario is dropped into The Mushroom Kingdom, while Luigi becomes prisoner of the evil Bowser. Can Mario save his brother, and the world, from Bowser’s schemes?
Let’s get this out of the way: I’m the wrong age for The Super Mario Bros. Movie. I’m too young to get its references and too old to enjoy its childish tone. So my opinions on this film are more mixed than those of the seeming majority. Still the families in my theatre seemed to love it, for what that’s worth to you!
The first act instantly put me off balance, as it took an angle I hadn’t expected: an origin story. And this approach failed to work for me. For one: it led to tones of exposition for a story with which 90% of the viewing audience would be familiar; for another: the whole point of the origin story was (in my estimation) to provide the basis for a hero’s journey arc– except nobody really grows or changes in this film.
Mario especially is the same guy at the end as when he started. He was always assertive, protective of his brother, and masked his doubts with bravado. And the character himself is fine in execution. I just wish he had some kind of progression.
I was also disappointed that Peach’s story is all but sidelined. She intrigued me early, with teases about from where she hails. But none of these questions led to answers.
Also, Peach (Anya Taylor-Joy) being badass makes sense. Most of the Toads are established as cowards, and they follow Peach because she protects them. That’s a good original bit of lore which I’ll choose to believe as canon from here on in.
Toad is the loyal hype-man/ sidekick. I didn’t like him near as much as I wanted to though… He was actually kinda annoying. And that pains me because Toad’s been my go-to Mario Kart character for 20 years! I freaking love the guy. But Keegan-Michael Key ‘s take was hit-or-miss.
Luigi is the only character who actually undergoes a meaningful development. Someone made a brilliant choice to send him– most cowardly character– to the scariest dimension. His trials are harrowing and get semi-intense in parts.
But Luigi isn’t in The Super Mario Bros. Movie near enough! He’s pretty well just there for the start and end. And that’s a massive let down because Charlie Day’s performance is endearing. It’s often good when movies leave you wanting more, but I was left wanting WAY more (see, unsatisfied).
Bowser is the shining star of this story! Every moment with him was gold, from his intimidating introduction to his pathetic pining for Princess Peach. Jack Black is one of the most charismatic performers I’ve ever seen, and he channels all his gravitas here to create the most watchable moments of this film.
Oh yes– I’d like to acknowledge that the badguys in this film are actually murderous. They’re a cut above most kids’ movie villains because they actually have evil intent and aim to follow through. Of course nothing genuinely violent happens. But the fact that they let badguys be badguys for a change (and not misunderstood or incompetent) is a breath of fresh air.
Other stand-out voice actors include Khary Payton (the Penguin King) and Juliet Jelenic (Lumalee the depressing star). Lumalee especially tapped into my love for dark humor. Most of those jokes would go over kids’ heads but they made me chuckle.
The Super Mario Bros. Movie featured solid character dynamics. The relationships were believable, and the actors had good chemistry. Charlie Day and Chris Pratt were especially engaging as the titled Mario Bros.
Most of this film’s jokes failed to land for me. I won’t say they weren’t funny (because other people in my theatre liked them), but they didn’t gel with my sense of humor. That said– anything with Bowser or the depressing star made me laugh. And I love that Mario hates mushrooms.
Tenacity seems to be the driving theme behind The Super Mario Bros. Movie. This story is about the struggle to stay true to yourself and earn self-confidence when no one else believes in you. Said theme is explored decently. Though it’s perhaps too subtle for most people to take away the lesson.
The Super Mario Bros. Movie featured multiple stand-out action sequences! Come to think of it, I liked them all. They weren’t mind-blowing spectacles, mind you, but they were competent. I consider that a win. Plus they somehow managed to organically make a 2-D side-scrolling action scene– so that was good.
I’m not often one to praise sound-designers (though I recently gave them a shout-out for John Wick 4) but the sound-work was beautiful! I’m blown away by how well these technicians incorporated music and sound-cues from the games. It’s seamless in execution and singlehandedly raises my score (if only cause of the nostalgia). Sound-effects are arguably the most important aspect of a Mario adaptation. And this crew nailed their jobs!
The Super Mario Bros. Movie also features fantastic animation. It’s fluid, well-lit, and attention-grabbing. The art style appeals too. The world of Mario is beautifully realized and rendered.
The Super Mario Bros. Movie is nostalgia bait that mostly works. It’s… fine I guess. It’s neither bad nor good. But it doesn’t overstay its welcome. The story entertained me, though failed to leave an emotional impact. Though it’s important to note once again: the kids and families at my theatre liked this more than I did (many of them clapped at the end).
Still, I’ll say The Super Mario Bros. Movie is Worth a Watch.
NOTE: Stick around after the film for a fun post-credits scene.
IN-DEPTH ANALYSES OF THE ABOVE, AND MORE, ON THIS EPISODE OF CLOSE UP:
What’s your history with the Mario franchise? What did you think of The Super Mario Bros. Movie? Please share your thoughts in the comments (no spoilers please). If you have any ideas for future articles, or any questions, let me know. Also be sure to Like this article on Facebook and share if you enjoyed!
Till next time,