The Super Mario Bros. Movie Review – A simple, entertaining family flick

A simple, entertaining family flick

Mario is a game about a plumber moving from left to right on the screen, jumping on enemies, breaking blocks and trying to save the princess. While more recent installments of Mario have been focused on additional special moves or adding a few extra kart enhancements and calling it a day (looking at you Mario Kart), this isn’t a difficult game to adapt. And it’s not a super complicated narrative to unravel. And that in itself makes the baffling failure of Super Mario Bros in 1993 all the more incredulous.

Fast forward to 2023 and Illumination give it their best shot at adapting the New York-bound plumber. They have a good track record with animation, and while Disney have been floundering lately with an unenviable track record of box office bombs (Lightyear, Strange Worlds and Turning Red, respectively), Dreamworks and Illuminations have both been effortlessly cashing in on the House of Mouse’s failures.

Illuminations are not a one-trick pony, and as we’ve seen from recent releases like Sing 2 and Rise of Gru, this studio have plenty of juice left in the tank. Some of that juice has been fired straight at the Mario brand, with a collaboration featuring Nintendo themselves. As a result, they’ve managed to carve out an animated, pixel-perfect visual rendition of the Super Mario Bros world. And what a visual treat this film is.

The animation is outstanding and the worlds are absolutely brimming with life. The colours work perfectly and whether it be the contrasting lava-filled Bowser’s castle against the snowy backdrop of a frozen castle, or the colourful and vibrant Mushroom world, the animators have captured exactly what makes Mario games so fun to explore.

The basic story centers on Mario and Luigi, who are down-and-out plumbers eking out a living. They’re not doing too well but do find a breakthrough when they try to help a plumbing issue affecting the whole of Brooklyn.

One thing leads to another, they head underground and find a special pipe that takes them into the magical Mario world we’ve come to know and love.

Unfortunately, Luigi and Mario are separated in the process. Luigi finds himself in the “bad lands” and escaping from all kinds of nasty ghouls, while Mario looks upon the wonders of Mushroom world, joined by the enigmatic Toad who brings him to Princess Peach, the one in charge. Gone is the usual damsel in distress trope – Peach can do it all.

Mario and Peach eventually work together to try and find Luigi and save him from Bowser, but they’ll have to recruit some help along the way before they can.

What ensues from here is a pretty run-of-the-mill rescue operation, complete with a big fight at the end and plenty of comedic thrills and big set pieces to pad out the run-time. I won’t spoil all of that here because honestly, fans of the games will be in their element given the sheer number of Easter Eggs here. This is a film that absolutely knows who its target audience is and unashamedly goes hell to the leather to give Mario fans everything they could want.

Where the film is less successful however, is in the way the characters are developed. Or not, in the case of Princess Peach. Peach is essentially a Mary Sue; she’s perfect in every way and can do no wrong. There’s one segment where she effortlessly completes an obstacle course that Mario has significant problems with, but instead of showing her vulnerability afterwards when Mario asks her how many times it took her to originally learn the course, she simply shrugs and claims “I grew up here so I could just do it instantly.” This may sound like a minor issue extrapolated into something bigger, but there’s a distinct difference between a badass heroine and an outright perfect protagonist, and unfortunately Peach falls into the latter category, which is pretty disappointing.

The voice acting is a bit of a mixed bag too, with Seth Rogen’s Donkey Kong a definite acquired taste, while Jack Black’s deliciously campy and wonderfully evil Bowser, an absolute scene-stealer. Nestling somewhere in the middle is Chris Pratt’s Mario. He’s absolutely fine at times and shockingly bland at others. There’s no denying that Mario’s original voice from the games would have fit the role a lot more effectively. At the same time, it’s not a complete deal-breaker either.

Any critical issues can be overlooked though given how darn fun the movie actually is. The theatre I was in was absolutely packed full of families. Kids will delight at seeing their favourite characters brought to life and while there are some notable omissions on the roster, this only opens the door wider for a possible second film if this one is successful. And as we predicted earlier this year in our box office article Mario could be on course to make a very tidy profit.

The Super Mario Bros movie is not perfect. It does have some narrative issues, with a largely flat and predictable script. But what else are we expecting from a plumber that jumps on mushrooms and smashes bricks for fun? This is a simple, entertaining watch that adults and kids should enjoy in equal measure. This is the perfect film to watch with the kids over the Easter break, and an ode to Mario fans everywhere.

Feel free to check out more of our movie reviews here!

  • Verdict - 7/10

Leave a comment