I’ll Review Anything: The Super Marios Bros. Movie

Way back in 1993, the live-action Super Mario Bros. movie was released to the public. I remember being really eager to see it back then because it had Bob Hoskins in it and I loved him in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?. It was also the very first movie based on a video game and it was about to make history. But the biggest reason why I wanted to see it was it was a a movie on Nintendo’s biggest video game on the NES/Famicom. What could go wrong?

Here’s the thing. I remember going to see it in the movie theater but I hardly remember anything about it. The only thing that really stuck in my mind was the Bob-omb slowly walking the street or something like that. Apparently, it was so bad my childhood brain blocked it from my memory to avoid any future trauma. I did see it much later when I got older and, yeah. I can see why I blocked it from my mind.

Fast forward to today, three decades after that box office bomb, Nintendo is giving it another try. This time with Illumination at the head of things. Will this be redemption for Mario, Luigi and the rest? Well, I’m happy to say, yes. The Super Mario Bros. Movie is a whole lot of fun, especially if you grew up playing Nintendo and its adjacent properties.

Although the movie has been out for quite a while now, this will still be a SPOILER FREE review. It’s not like there are a lot of surprises and twists here. It’s just that some countries only got to screen The Super Mario Bros. Movie recently, which is why I’m very late with this review. So, just to be on the safe side, SPOILER FREE review incoming!

The Super Mario Bros. Movie generally takes place in the Mushroom Kingdom and the surrounding territories. The King of the Koopas, Bowser, intends to invade the Mushroom Kingdom and marry its ruler, Princess Peach. At around the same time, Mario and Luigi, two down on their luck plumbers from Brooklyn, are transported to these fantastical location. With Luigi getting captured by Bowser, Mario joins up with Princess Peach and a plucky young Toad to find a way to save the Mushroom Kingdom.

There’s a lot to like about The Super Mario Bros. Movie from the outset as it feel authentic to the source material. For one thing, all the characters mostly look and behave like you would think. They do tweak things here and there, like Princess Peach being much more brave and not just the damsel in distress like in the games. I know some will complain that she’s not the ditzy naive girl who needs to be rescued like she is in the games. However, they do make it work because she does feel like a more compelling character here. This should’ve been a major complaint of mine but, because of how her story is told, I like the change.

A lot of effort was also put into the action scenes as they’re all a whole lot of fun, if a little bit predictable. You already know what’s going to be the outcome of Mario and Donkey Kong’s battle but it’s still a very enjoyable fight. They did add a lot of creative elements here as well with all of the power ups scattered around the arena. The sequence in Rainbow Road with all of the karts are also a blast to watch. I will say the climactic third act battle did feel a little rushed as it almost comes right after the Rainbow Road sequence. It’s still good, though.

My biggest concern coming into The Super Mario Bros. Movie was the voice acting. Like a lot of fans, I was thoroughly confused as to why Illumination got Chris Pratt to do the voice of Mario. Yeah, I know all about the meme of Mario sounding like Linda from Bob’s Burgers. But my main concern wasn’t that. It was the thought that I would only hear Chris Pratt doing an Italian accent throughout the film and I just thought it would sound very unnatural. Thankfully, I really didn’t notice it and my fears were unfounded as Chris Pratt did make the role his own.

In fact, I will say everyone’s performance is pretty much on the money. I love Charlie Day’s version of Luigi as his rather high pitched voice works well for the character. Anya Taylor-Joy’s Princess Peach does sound the most standard but she does hit all the right emotional notes for the character. Keegan-Michael Key’s Toad doesn’t really get much to do throughout the film but I do buy him being the odd Toad who actually wants to have an adventure. The standout, however, is Jack Black’s Bowser. I honestly forgot Jack Black did his voice and I only remembered when he started belting out the Peaches song. Otherwise, his performance as this terrifying but still rather funny King of the Koopas was perfect.

The only performances I really didn’t buy were from the Kongs. Seth Rogen’s version of Donkey Kong was okay but, for some odd reason, it just didn’t sound like how I pictured the character. Ditto for Fred Armisen’s Cranky Kong, who didn’t sound, well, cranky enough. Oh, they’re still fine performances but I just didn’t think they fit the roles. It’s ultimately a minor quibble.

I will say I also generally liked the plot because it’s very simple. This makes everyone’s motivations very easy to understand. Bowser wants to conquer the Mushroom Kingdom and marry Princess Peach. Princess Peach wants to save the Mushroom Kingdom. Mario just wants to find Luigi and save him. It does get a little bothersome when they do try to complicate things or when they don’t really spend any time to explain things they put in the story. They briefly mention how Princess Peach first came to the Mushroom Kingdom and they never talk about it ever again. They why even bother mentioning it? I guess they do need something to set up the sequel?

I also do have a minor issue with the first act, which is mostly set in Brooklyn, where we get to follow Mario and Luigi’s rather mundane life. It does a fair job of setting up the brothers’ current situation in life and why they want to make it big. It’s also where we get to see the commercial using the Super Mario Bros. Super Show rap, which is a fun little Easter Egg. I jus think this went on a little too long.

Speaking of Easter Eggs, The Super Mario Bros. Movie is littered with them and, as a fan of Nintendo properties, I had a blast spotting them all. From simple things like the familiar strains of the music from the games to Mario getting a couple of suit power ups, they’re all fun. This is a double edged sword, though, as some of them are kind of essential to really getting into the spirit of things. A person who’s never touched a Mario game might get confused with things like why there are mushrooms that can make you big while others will make you small. Or why seeing a blue shell scooting around Rainbow Road is so deadly. I guess they can follow along for the most part but I do think a lot of the enjoyment I had was because I understood the reference.

All-in-all, I really had a blast with The Super Mario Bros. Movie. It’s a very quick watch, clocking in at 92-minutes, but Illumination does make use of the time very efficiently but squeezing as much entertainment as they can in that amount of time. Nintendo fans will get the most bang for their buck but even non-gamers will still generally enjoy this adventure through the Mushroom Kingdom. If someone asks you to watch it, I implore you to say “lets-a go!”

Have you seen The Super Mario Bros. Movie? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments section below!


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