REVIEW — “The Super Mario Bros. Movie”
The Super Mario Bros. Movie hits like a red shell to your childhood with its colorful visuals, vivid characters and charming voice cast.
After the dismal failure of Super Mario Bros. (1993), Hollywood avoided bright and bombastic video game adaptations for years. Instead, the industry plunged head-first into producing darker gaming material for the cinema like Silent Hill, Mortal Kombat, Assassin’s Creed, Warcraft, and the Resident Evil franchise. Such films were often met with mild box office success and tepid critical response.
Perhaps the live action success of the recent Sonic the Hedgehog franchise inspired Nintendo to give their flagship character another go. And so, the corporate gaming giant partnered with Illumination, the creative force behind the Despicable Me, Minions, and Sing franchises to finally bring their brand’s beloved characters to the big screen the way fans know and love them.
Under the guidance of producers Chris Meledandri and Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto, directors Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic deliver a wonderfully faithful, colorful, and dazzling animated adventure that’s full of figurative (and literal) Easter Eggs, and a score that takes cues from the video game’s many memorable themes and sound effects.
The Universal Pictures release follows ambitious Brooklyn plumbing siblings Mario Mario (Chris Pratt) and Luigi Mario (Charlie Day), The Mario Bros. While fixing a water main underground, the duo are transported to another world through a wormhole of plumbing pipes. Mario lands in the Mushroom Kingdom where he meets friendly backpacking adventurer Toad (Keegan-Michael Key). Together, they go to ask Princess Peach (Anya Taylor-Joy) for help locating Luigi.
The brother in green landed in the Darkland, a wasteland inhabited by lava rivers, haunted houses, and boney koopas that is ruled by the evil and wretched Bowser (Jack Black). The repulsive reptilian is obsessed with Peach and intends on either marrying her and ruling together, or destroying her kingdom to ashes.
Jealous of the bond Mario and the Princess are forming, Bowser captures Luigi and sets a destructive course for the Mushroom Kingdom. While imprisoned in Bowser’s dungeon, Luigi encounters an adorable, yet disturbing, blue star-shaped sprite that provides some of the biggest laughs in the film.
Determined to save her kingdom from the Koopa King and his army, the princess has Mario run through a gauntlet of blocks, pipes, and power-ups in a training montage straight from the classic arcade game. The team then ventures to enlist the help of Cranky Kong (Fred Armisen) to unite Kong Country in the fight against Bowser’s evil forces. After a competitive meet-cute between Donkey Kong (Seth Rogen) and Mario, the rivals must race their fleet of custom karts to defeat Bowser and save the kingdom and Brooklyn from his clutches.
While the titular brothers are, unfortunately, separated for a majority of the film, it gives Mario a chance to harness his newfound powers. The key character trait of Mario is that he never gives up. However, he really taps into his power when reunited with Luigi, because the brothers are not just stronger together, they’re super.
With all of the hubbub around their casting, both Pratt and Day provide suitable voice work as the titular leads, and the film even goes out of its way to explain their lack of squeaky, stereotypical Italian accents.
Taylor-Joy provides a regal fierceness as the voice of strong and independent Princess Peach. However, it is Jack Black who really outshines them all as the gruff and fearsome Bowser. He is especially entertaining when he breaks into his Peach-inspired love ballad.
Additionally, the chemistry between Seth Rogen and Pratt as Donkey Kong in Mario, respectively, is a potentially bromantic rivalry that I hope only flourishes in subsequent sequels. Because, make no mistake, this movie will not be a Bob-omb, so stay for the credits and expect many sequels.
Also featuring the voice talents of Kevin Michael Richardson, Sebastian Maniscalco, and Charles Martinet, who has voiced the characters of Mario and Luigi in the Super Mario games for more than 30 years, The Super Mario Bros. Movie is fist-pumping fun for the whole family! 3.5/5
Rated PG and with a running time of 1 hour, 32 minutes, The Super Mario Bros. Movie opens only in theaters April 5, 2023.