Photo by: Brenden Cowan
Spoiler warning: minor spoilers for The Super Mario Bros. Movie.
The Super Mario Bros. Movie is exactly what a Mario movie needs to be: colourful, fun and simple.
The movie features the titular Mario (Chris Pratt) as a Brooklyn plumber who has been transported to the Mushroom Kingdom. He has to save his brother Luigi (Charlie Day), who was transported to the Dark Kingdom, while also putting a stop to the Dark Kingdom’s king, Bowser (Jack Black).
Leading up to release, everyone was worried about the voice cast. Jack Black and arguably Seth Rogen seemed fine, but a few roles seemed oddly cast, most notably Chris Pratt as Mario. The trailers did him no favours either, as he sounded stiff and too much like Pratt himself. Thankfully, in the movie his voice is much better, and after a while, it faded into the background.
Weirdly, it was those initially exciting Jack Black and Seth Rogen castings that ended up butting out the most. Seth Rogen’s Donkey Kong does the signature Seth Rogen laugh twice and Jack Black’s initially deep Bowser voice frequently pitches back up to his normal voice. Neither were ultimately too distracting, though they did pull me out of the film a few times. Fred Armisen’s Cranky Kong was also a bit annoying, though that can be blamed more on the dialogue than his voice.
The movie does a spectacular job of translating the Mario characters and worlds to the big screen. The characters are intensely expressive, arguably more than they are in the games. There are also numerous hidden details, whether it’s the frequent classic Mario melodies incorporated into the background tracks or the Brooklyn construction site that has the same layout as the iconic World 1-1 layout, there’s so much to notice on screen at any given time.
This movie has arguably the best story out of any Mario property; the competition is pretty light, so this isn’t a huge achievement. However, while by movie standards the plot is fairly light, it’s a nice change of pace for the Mario series to see these characters convey emotions deeper than “Wahoo! I did it!” or “Oh, mamma mia!” — though, fair warning: the line “mamma mia” is still used heavily in the film.
I also found it interesting that the movie chose not to make Mario and Peach an official couple by the end of it. The concept is acknowledged by the film, as a large part of Bowser’s motivation is his love for Peach and he gets jealous of Mario for seemingly encroaching upon her. I appreciate that they didn’t go all the way with it; having Mario motivated to stop Bowser in order to reunite with his brother made his relationships with both Peach and Luigi stronger.
The movie does a good job of balancing the needs of its child audience without being a drag for the adults who have to watch it with them. Scenes like Bowser’s “Peaches” song are goofy and entertaining for kids without overwhelming the rest of the audience with loud noises and flashing colours.
Ultimately, The Super Mario Bros. Movie is a fairly simple kids movie banking on the audience’s familiarity with the series. I got a lot out of this movie as a lifelong Mario fan, and given how far-reaching the series is, I’d bet there’s something in it that anybody can enjoy. It does make me wary of the potential for a “Nintendo cinematic universe” as fans have speculated on; since only a select few of Nintendo’s other properties have the same broad appeal, this approach would be far less effective. But, speaking of this film on its own, I had fun with it.