‘The Super Mario Bros. Movie’ – Review

The film, based on the Nintendo video game franchise, ultimately falls flat despite a few bright points.

The Super Mario Bros. Movie brings the beloved Nintendo characters of the Super Mario franchise to life. The story centers around Italian plumber brothers Mario (Chris Pratt) and Luigi (Charlie Day), who are separated by a warp pipe, sending the brothers to alternate dimensions. Mario finds himself in the colorful Mushroom Kingdom, where he meets new friends like Toad (Keegan Michael-Key), and the lovely Princess Peach (Anya Taylor-Joy). Luigi, on the other hand, is sent to the Dark Lands, where he faces King Bowser (Jack Black), who is set on marrying Princess Peach to inherit Mushroom Kingdom. What follows is ninety minutes of what can only be described as reminiscent of watching your friends at the sleepover play Super Mario without you, while you desperately wait for your turn. It’s not always fun to watch other people play the game. 

The Super Mario Bros. plot is simple, and never really takes off in a gripping way. Chock full of references that Mario Bros. fans will appreciate (yes, Rainbow Road is the best track on Mario Kart), we’re never really given a reason to care for anything happening in the story. But truthfully, did we really expect anything more? While the film is well supplied with Easter Eggs that will service the Mario Bros. enthusiasts well, it is clearly geared more towards a younger audience. And when taken with that lens, it’s fine. 

Which is not to say that it doesn’t have its bright spots (outside of the almost unforgivable choice of casting Chris Pratt as Mario). The animation styling of the movie is beautiful, staying close enough to the animation of the video games while also remaining modern and cinematic. There are some sequences that visually pop onscreen, and the psychedelic rainbow world of Mushroom Kingdom is visually pleasing. Sans the titular characters, the voice cast also performs well, with Jack Black making a welcome return to the silver screen. Anya Taylor-Joy stands out as Princess Peach, giving the character a sense of power that may not necessarily always be associated with Peach. 

However, the two weaker voice performances are that of the Mario Brothers themselves, with Chris Pratt and Charlie Day feeling out of place in their own film. While the Mario Brothers are known for their overly exaggerated Italian accents, with the name Mario being almost synonymous with the catchphrase “It’s a’me!” the stark contrast of a satirized Italian accent to whatever word one could use to characterize Chris Pratt’s dialect (which fluctuates between Brooklyn Italian and…Chris Pratt) feels a bit too much of a departure. While a more video-game-accurate Mario would probably be too distracting to carry a 90-minute movie, Pratt and Day’s voices are so far from what those familiar with the franchise, it’s distracting. 

Which, to be fair, no character is really true to what small snippets we hear in the games. Keegan Michael-Key’s Toad voice is not high pitched and screechy, and Anya Taylor-Joy’s Princess Peach voice is not the dainty squeaks we’re used to hearing from Peach. Yet, they manage to bring something new to the characters that still feel true enough to their source materials that it works. The same simply can not be said for Pratt or Day. That said, Jack Black is the one who truly shines in the cast, reminding us of the legend he is. 

If you’re looking for something groundbreaking out of The Super Mario Bros. Movie, you will be disappointed. Though, if you’re looking for something groundbreaking out of The Super Mario Bros. Movie, I am also unsure what to tell you. But, when taken at its face value of being a children’s animated film with fun nods to the video games, the film remains at least watchable. 

Grade: C-

Oscar Prospects:
Likely: None
Should be Considered: None

Where to Watch: In Theaters

Lex Williams
she/her @lexwilli_
Lives in NC, where she is on a first name basis with the owners of her favorite pho spot.
Favorite Actress: Angela Bassett
Sign: Capricorn

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