An attempt was made in 1993 to bring the iconic Super Mario Bros. video game series to the big screen. The end result was an awkward family-friendly Blade Runner filled with wacky chase scenes and cringy dialogue that’s perfect for anyone’s bad movie night. Because of the critical and financial failure of the film, which was titled Super Mario Bros., the folks at Nintendo thought it would be best to lay off adaptations of their games for a while. Now, almost 30 years later, Mario and Luigi have made their way back onto the big screen. This time, it’s in an animated feature titled The Super Mario Bros. Movie. Is this the video game adaptation fans have been begging for or is it game over for any hopes of a good Nintendo film?
The Super Mario Bros. Movie is wildly entertaining and is just as much fun as playing a video game. There’s exciting action throughout this fast-paced adventure. There are scenes that feel like an actual amusement park ride in the theater. It’s probably one of the most fun movies that will come out this year.
Part of the fun of the film is that it’s chock full of references and easter eggs for fans of any era of the gaming franchise to find. Keeping an eye out for gags and nods in the background as well as keeping an ear out for familiar sound effects is an absolute blast. One could watch this movie a few times and still catch references they already haven’t. It’s genuinely a rather fun way to celebrate the long legacy of Mario (along with other Nintendo titles).
The worldbuilding throughout the movie is phenomenal. Mario entering the Mushroom Kingdom for the first time is like stepping into Oz. The environments, backgrounds, creatures, colorful characters, and even the new rules and laws of physics are wonderfully whimsical and provide a truly transportive experience. The rules of the world, like the power-ups and magic, are explained perfectly enough to make it all believable without dumping too much exposition.
The animation throughout the movie is some of the best Illumination has ever pulled off. The backgrounds are lively, the motions are dynamic, and the characters stretch and emote in ways that are only usually seen in 2D animation. At one point there’s a body of water that looks extremely real. The animation looks incredible, and it’s aided by the vivid colors and charming aesthetic.
The Super Mario Bros. Movie is also quite funny. Some of the humor does stem from the audience knowing certain elements from the source material, but there’s no shortage of witty one-liners, hilarious slapstick, and great situational comedy. There’s something for both older and younger audiences to laugh about.
While there may not be tons of emotional moments throughout, they are there and they are touching. Mario is someone who never gives up, but it does become a detriment at times and we get to see him grow. Mario and Luigi’s relationship as brothers feels very heartfelt. Donkey Kong goes above and beyond to make his father proud which clearly adds a lot of stress in his life. There are several moments throughout to do, in fact, pull at the heartstrings.
Bowser’s motivations in the film are the same as they are in the games, but they’re approached quite interestingly here. The audience can understand where he’s coming from, but he goes about getting what he wants in a terrible and toxic way. It’s a clever way to work his usual motivation into a movie.
The music is genuinely fantastic throughout. The score is almost entirely composed of orchestrated versions of iconic songs from the games, classic and modern. They all blend together to match the movie’s tone while also sounding great. There are a few pop songs, but they’re from the 80s to reference when Mario first made his debut, there’s not a lot of them, and the ones chosen are actually good.
A lot of fans seemed to be concerned about the quality of the voice acting that would be used in the movie. Thankfully, the voice acting is overall great. Jack Black steals the show as Bowser. Toad and Kamek’s actors are unrecognizable because of how well they’re able to change their voices. Peach and Donkey Kong more or less sound like their actors, but they’re extremely expressive with their voices. Mario and Luigi’s voices and Brooklyn accents are handled surprisingly well. They may not be the iconic Charles Martinet, but they are expressive with their voices while also using realistic modern Brooklyn accents that aren’t too over the top. The cast did an overall great job.
The most noticeable issue in this movie is pacing. It’s extraordinarily fast-paced. This does lead to a fun time, but there are scenes that definitely could have been given more time to feel fleshed out and organic. Mario, Peach, and Toad travel across different lands on their way to the Jungle Kingdom, but it feels like a montage. It would have been cool to get more of a look at these various worlds. Peach is very quick to bring Mario, this guy she just met, on the journey with her. There are scenes like these and more that feel far too rushed.
This is the Super Mario BROTHERS Movie, but Mario and Luigi aren’t together a whole lot. When they’re on screen together, their chemistry is fantastic. It would have been great to be able to have seen them together more. The decision to make Luigi the one needing to be saved makes sense since Mario has a reason to save him and Peach serves as his guide in this magical land, but another couple of scenes of Mario and Luigi together would have been welcome. Thankfully they’ll likely be together more in an inevitable sequel.
This doesn’t really take away from the plot or overall quality of the movie, but Cranky Kong isn’t very “cranky.” He’s just sort of sarcastic. In Donkey Kong Country, he’s depicted as a grumpy old man. Here, though, he’s sarcastic, jokey, and gets embarrassed by his son being a showoff. It works for this story, but it’s not quite Cranky Kong.
The Super Mario Bros. Movie truly captures the feel of playing a Mario game. It’s fun, funny, action-packed, and filled with loveable characters and beautiful and imaginative environments. It feels like a celebration of all things Super Mario. There are some slight issues, but they barely take away from the enjoyment of the film. If this is how any future Nintendo adaptations are handled, then they’re certainly in the perfect hands.
[…] Super Mario is probably the most well-known character in gaming and has easily become a pop culture staple. He’s beloved by many because of his “let’s-a-go” attitude and can-do spirit. Most fans think of Charles Martinet’s take on the character when Mario comes up, which makes sense since he’s played him in over 200 different titles, but there are a surprising handful of actors who have portrayed the gaming mascot. Each of them have been great in their own way, but others have captured the feeling of the character more than others. Because of that, let’s take a look at how each of Mario’s English voice actors rank among each other. […]