The Super Mario Bros. Movie

Rating: 3 out of 5.

There’s nothing wrong with giving people what they want. This is sometimes necessary when adapting a video game into a feature-length film. A collection of references only a connoisseur could appreciate satisfies a fundamental requirement. The Super Mario Bros. Movie honors the original entity, which makes it far better than the infamous 1993 adaptation Super Mario Bros. It checks all the boxes as fan service at its most effective. Why did this take 30 years?

It’s a basic hero’s journey that the youngest viewer will understand. Based on Nintendo’s popular video game series, the chronicle concerns a pair of Italian-American plumbers from New York City. Mario (Chris Pratt) and Luigi (Charlie Day) leave their employer Spike (Sebastian Maniscalco), to start their own plumbing business. While fixing a leaky pipe in a Brooklyn sewer, the duo is sucked into a portal and separated into alternate dimensions. Luigi plummets into the Dark Lands, ruled by a ruthless fire-breathing Koopa King named Bowser (Jack Black). Meanwhile, Mario arrives in the Mushroom Kingdom, ruled by Princess Peach (Anya Taylor-Joy). There he also meets an anthropomorphic mushroom named Toad (Keegan-Michael Key). They all join forces. Mario’s goal is twofold: find his brother Luigi and save the world from Bowser.

The Super Mario Bros. Movie is centered on the platform game of the same name with a long history. Developed for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), it was first released in Japan in 1985 before making its way to the rest of the world by 1987. However, a myriad of spin-offs featuring the Mario character exists. Even oldsters (Hello, me!) will recall this all started with Donkey Kong in 1981. The premise here is to celebrate the totality of all the various iterations in the franchise and reward knowledgeable viewers.

The Super Mario Bros. Movie is a Nintendo lover’s dream. Early on, the brothers appear in a commercial for their new plumbing business. They don yellow capes a la Super Mario World. The brothers sprint lively through Brooklyn in the classic side-scrolling manner of the computerized game. In her empire, Princess Peach shows him an obstacle course that alludes to Super Mario Bros. 2. The powerups are introduced, which include eating mushrooms. The gag is that Mario hates eating the fungi back in the real world, but in this realm, they allow him to grow by one foot and jump even higher. Later in Kong Kingdom, Mario must fight Cranky Kong’s (Fred Armisen) son Donkey Kong (Seth Rogen), who throws barrels at him in the arena Super Smash Bros.-style. Mario rings a bell, giving him a catsuit (Super Mario 3-D World) to win. The heroes design their custom go-karts to go after the Koopas, and the display menus are lifted directly from Mario Kart.

The Super Mario Bros. Movie is straightforward children’s entertainment presented as an amalgamation of nostalgia. The latest offering from Illumination — the studio that brought you the Minions — is directed by Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic (animated TV series Teen Titans Go!) from a screenplay by Matthew Fogel (Minions: The Rise of Gru). The film isn’t deep. The script for The Lego Movie or Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers have significantly more substance for a film of this type. It’s simply a greatest-hits anthology. A compendium of “Easter eggs” designed to create as many “I remember that from the video game!” exclamations as possible in an efficient 92 minutes.

The rudimentary story is pitched more to children but gives a few nods to more mature viewers. A soundtrack features tunes that adults will recognize: “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” (Beastie Boys), “Holding Out for a Hero” (Bonnie Tyler), “Take On Me” (A-ha), “Thunderstruck” (AC/DC), and “Mr. Blue Sky” (Electric Light Orchestra). Even voice actor Jack Black gets to sing as Bowser in a tribute to the musician’s rock group Tenacious D. At one point, his character sits at a piano and croons a power ballad called “Peaches” to his unrequited love. The Super Mario Brothers is a colorful bit of undemanding fun that disappears from the mind a day later. I enjoyed it in the moment.


2 Responses to “The Super Mario Bros. Movie”

  1. I think it did its job. Satisfy lovers of all the games. I remember playing Mario Kart over and over with my nephew. So I even got excited seeing that represented. I understand why this is such a big hit. 3 ⭐️

    Liked by 1 person

    • Out for a week, and it’s already made $445 million. On its way to becoming the highest-grossing animated film of all time (not adjusted for inflation). Sorry Frozen II …or should I consider The Lion King remake. Either way, it’s beating them both.


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