'The Super Mario Bros. Movie' Review
April 4, 2023
While every genre has its share of highlights and lowlights, video game movies have always seemed to have a lot more low-quality content compared to everyone else. It doesn’t take a genius to see that year after year of films from the Mortal Kombat, Resident Evil, Hitman, and Street Fighter series really poisoned everyone’s appetite for stories that spawned a controller.
Japanese gaming company Nintendo (probably the only gaming company every mother knows) at least had the smarts to quit when they were behind, shutting almost all film adaptations of their properties after the disaster that was 1993’s Super Mario Bros. Now exactly thirty years later, and with the help of Universal and Illumination, the studios behind the Despicable Me and Secret Life of Pets films, Nintendo is bringing Mario back to the silver screen in animated form for The Super Mario Bros. Movie.
The Mushroom Kingdom is under attack by the evil Bowser, with Princess Peach and Mario being the only heroes capable of stopping him. Both Peach and Mario have dedicated their lives to helping others, whether it’s the entire population of Toads within the Mushroom Kingdom, or Mario’s more timid brother Luigi, who’s been captured by Bower.
Their journey takes them to other worlds, which will delight longtime players of the Mario franchise. Whether it’s in the form of karts, platforms, or brawling arenas, there are plenty of callbacks, almost as if you’re wielding a controller and guiding Mario on his heroic journey. And while that exact statement has ruined so many video game movies in the past (who wants to watch a game rather than play it?), the filmmaking on display here turns that liability into an asset.
The camera moves with Mario, with lots of tracking shots as our characters traverse through the levels in both 2D and 3D sequences, with the sound effects all ripped straight from the games. Brian Tyler’s fun score features many of the iconic motifs, with the added bonus of quite a few needle drops, none of which are all that imaginative or above ultra-literal, but they get the job more than done in the moment.
The voice cast is above the punching bag they were made out to be when they were initially announced. Chris Pratt is still as likable as ever, and at least doesn’t commit too hard to the Italian accent for it to be embarrassing. Anya Taylor-Joy and Charlie Day are commendable as Peach and Luigi, respectively. Jack Black is probably the most inspired choice with Bowser, being both menacing as a villain and entertaining as a character with some laughs (and songs) along the way.
It may not exactly be as super as its title states, but The Super Mario Bros. Movie is a vastly superior version compared to the last time the plumber brothers were in theaters. It doesn’t matter if you lean towards either the classic or the modern games, there’s something for all fans, with the added bonus of future occasions to level up.