TL;DR – While frustrating in more places than it should be, it shines when it lands on the fun.
Post-Credit Scene – There is a mid and end-credit scene
Disclosure – I was invited to a screening of this film
The Super Mario Bros. Movie Review –
When this film was first announced, you could feel a general odd bemusement permeate through the internet, with relocations back to the last time they tried this in live action [a film that I have fond remembrances of, but that might be just the distance of time and youth as I have not seen it in decades]. That amusement was only highlighted when the lead cast was announced. A feeling that was only slightly abated when the first trailers landed. However, 2023 has been the year for good video game adaptations, so maybe this could work … maybe.
So to set the scene, Mario (Chris Pratt) and Luigi (Charlie Day) are two brothers that have just started their own plumbing company in Brooklyn and Queens. They are trying to make a name for themselves when a water main bursts, and only they can fix it. But as they go underground to find the source, they stumble across a giant green pipe lying open. What harm could that do? Was the thought right before both brothers were sucked into a new world, one full of mushrooms and the other dark and foreboding.
Given this is a film of the good, the bad, and the meh, that is how we will look at the review, starting with the bad. The story is, well, at best it is painfully average. Unfortunately, it is not always at its best. The narrative feels like it has the structural integrity of a wet paper towel trying to hold everything together, which you can painfully see whenever the film tries to go from point A to B. I know the original game literally only had ‘rescue the Princess’ as a story, and understandably that was a direction they did not want to take. However, in a universe of choices, this was not the one I would have taken. For example, splitting up Mario and Luigi was a mistake because the film is at its best when they are together.
Where things become very mixed is in voice acting, which is unfortunately all over the place. Thankfully Chris Pratt is not a problem. I mean, he is not great, but he is also not bad, and his experience in The Lego films shows, even if it was a bit lacklustre. The big surprise was the blandness of Anya Taylor-Joy’s Peach. Having seen Anya give such a range in films like The Menu, just average was a real shock to see it not work that well here. However, both Charlie Day’s Luigi and Keegan-Michael Key’s Toad were delights that brought joy to the screen whenever they were on. Additionally, you can tell that Jack Black was having a blast as Bowser, and it just works. Though a warning to parents, He has a song that will get into your head and never leave.
We have looked at the bad and the meh, meaning it is time to dive into everything that works. The first port of call on that front has to be the animation. They have used a style here that works in all situations [the Mushroom Kingdom or New York] that still retains its own style. It is closer in tone and feel to Super Mario Odyssey but with a bit more uniformity. It is also good to see a video game adaptation that is not embarrassed by what it is. It lavashes in both its medium and also in those aspects that make it work. One notable example of this is the musical score that shows a genuine reverence for the groundwork of Koji Kondo that came before while using the work of Brian Tyler to reinterpret and explore the work in this cinematic setting.
However, more than any of this, the best parts of this film are when they double down on the fun. There is a sequence at the start where Luigi and Mario run through the streets of New York and parkour through a construction site, perfectly recreating what it is like to go through a level of the game, and I could not stop grinning from ear to ear. At one point, there is a murderous dog who is fantastic and a Lumalee whose every line of dialogue makes the entire audience laugh. Then there are those moments that show that the filmmakers understand and love the franchise, with some references to Luigi’s Mansion, Mario Kart, and some more deep, deep cuts. I mean, that reference they added in the end credit scene was wild. The moment when the film captures the joy you can find in the game is when it soars and helps smooth over some of the rougher parts.
In the end, do we recommend The Super Mario Bros. Movie? Well…? Look, there are some very rough parts of this film that can be straight-up frustrating at times. However, when it captures the fun of Mario, it is a joy to watch. Also, if nothing else, the kids in the audience loved it, and you could feel that energy throughout the film. If you liked The Super Mario Bros. Movie, we would also recommend The Bad Guys.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of The Super Mario Bros. Movie
Directed by – Aaron Horvath & Michael Jelenic
Written by – Matthew Fogel
Based on – Mario by Nintendo
Music by – Brian Tyler & Koji Kondo
Edited by – Eric Osmond
Production/Distribution Companies – Nintendo, Illumination & Universal Pictures
Starring – Chris Pratt, Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Day, Jack Black, Keegan-Michael Key, Seth Rogen, Fred Armisen, Sebastian Maniscalco, Kevin Michael Richardson & Charles Martinet with Khary Payton, Eric Bauza, Rino Romano, John DiMaggio, Scott Menville & Juliet Jelenic
Rating – Australia: PG; Canada: PG; Germany: 6; New Zealand: PG; United Kingdom: PG; United States: PG