Game – Movie Review: The Super Mario Bros. Movie (2023)

Long-awaited and hotly anticipated, The Super Mario Bros. Movie finally arrived and set about banishing the memories of the 1993 live-action disaster. A computer-animated film based on Nintendo’s Mario video game franchise, it was directed by Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic, and written by Matthew Fogel.

So, how is it?

The short answer is that it’s good. Not great, but good.

After a very cool introduction to Bowser (voiced by Jack Black), that the trailer spoiled most of, we meet brothers Mario and Luigi. The former voiced by Chris Pratt and the latter voiced by Charlie Day. They have just started a plumbing business in Brooklyn, and just about everyone, including their family, think they will fail.

After a botched job leaves the brothers disheartened, Mario sees a news item about a major water leak downtown and figures this is how their plumbing business can be noticed. However, their attempts to fix it go wrong, and they end up deep in the underground. There, they find a Warp Pipe and are sucked into it, being separated as they travel.

Luigi ends up in the Dark Lands, ruled by Bowser, and is promptly captured. Whereas Mario ends up in the Mushroom Kingdom and meets Toad (voiced by Keegan-Michael Key) who takes him to the castle of Princess Peach (voiced by Anya Taylor-Joy). Together, they decide to ask for help in defeating Browser from the Kongs. Something Cranky Kong (voiced by Fred Armisen) will only do if Mario can defeat Donkey Kong (voiced by Seth Rogan) in battle.

Will they be able to stop Bowser’s plan to use the Super Star to force Peach to marry him? Can they possibly jam in more references to the entire Mario franchise? Could the story be any more basic? Would anyone notice if Chris Pratt or Charlie Day wasn’t actually voicing Mario and Luigi?

Yes, The Super Mario Bros. Movie has a lot of reasons to be critiqued. Some more obvious than others. Yet, it’s genuinely hard to be too harsh on a film that is this energetic, this no-frills, and this passionate about the source material. At its core, The Super Mario Bros. Movie is a fun film that all ages can enjoy.

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Capturing the bright, brassy, and eccentric world of the franchise, Illumination have done a great job of making the movie pop on the screen. Even when it’s at its busiest, there’s so much delightfulness to enjoy on screen. In particular, the facial expressions of the characters and how they avoid any attempt to make them look less animated. This might sound silly considering the source material, but never forget what they almost did to Sonic. The animation impresses constantly, no easy task, considering the speed the movie moves at.

So fast, in fact, that they don’t really bother telling a story. Of course, there’s a basic one and this movie serves as more of an introduction to the franchise players, but there are way too many times where the lack of depth harms the film. It didn’t need to be anything ground breaking, but the lack of effort is surprising considering Nintendo’s protectiveness of the franchise.

Speaking of lack of effort though.

What was the point of hiring big name actors to voice Mario and Luigi? Aside from the marketing value? Both Chris Pratt and Charlie Day are quite lifeless in their roles and could have been replaced by anyone, cheaper too, and it wouldn’t have mattered. Something that is so much more notable when you contrast them to Jack Black and Anya Taylor-Joy. The former might be the best thing in the movie as Bowser, whereas the latter makes Peach feel so much more important.

Although, it’s fair to say that most won’t really care about that too much as The Super Mario Bros. Movie barrels forward with vibrant energy.

Where a lot of effort was made, a commendable amount, is with the franchise references and attempt to weave in as much ‘Mario’ as possible. Some, obvious and gleeful, others subtle and fun for the nerds, and some that are such deep cuts, it will go over most heads. Have you seen the 1986 Japanese animated film Super Mario Bros.: The Great Mission to Rescue Princess Peach!? There’s a reference to it here.

Likewise, the use of iconic Mario themes makes the music extremely memorable. Even if the shoe-horning in of pop-culture songs is disappointing. Although who doesn’t love the original song ‘Peaches’, performed by Black as Bowser?

Overall, it’s a flawed, but fun movie. You’ll laugh. Adapting Mario is such an impossible task that something this coherent and enjoyable is mightily impressive. We might not love it, you might not love it, but that hardly matters when it is making as much money as it is. This is clearly just the start of The Super Mario Bros. Movie franchise and here’s hoping that they can fix some of the issues this movie has as they move forward.


  • Carl Fisher

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The Super Mario Bros. Movie (2023)
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