Video game adaptations have been having a bit of a renaissance with bangers like Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and HBO’s The Last of Us, so it’s only natural for Nintendo to finally re-enter the ring with The Super Mario Bros. Movie. Surprisingly, The Super Mario Bros. Movie’s opening feels rather reminiscent of Nintendo’s first foray into the silver screen with Super Mario Bros. (1993), in that the latest iteration of the plumber’s Mario features the iconic siblings living in Brooklyn, scraping by with prospect plumbing jobs that inevitably lead our heroes into the Mushroom Kingdom proper.
Graciously, that’s where the similarities end between the two films, as The Super Mario Bros. Movie takes a green pipe down straight to the source material and crams as many nuggets and Easter eggs as possible from Nintendo’s storied history. With its brisk pace, The Super Mario Bros. Movie features a plot that feels like an amalgam of Super Mario Odyssey and Mario 64, both of which are excellent choices, as they exemplify the 3D era of the Mario franchise.
“The Super Mario Bros. Movie features a plot that feels like an amalgam of Super Mario Odyssey and Mario 64…”
After falling into the bowels of Brooklyn, the brothers unknowingly are transported to the Mushroom Kingdom after Luigi accidentally activates a green pipe, setting up the first half of the film, in which Mario vows to reunite with his brother after they get separated on their way down. Without delving too much into the rest of the plot, let’s just say The Super Mario Bros. Movie does an excellent job of cribbing the best bits of some of the more iconic elements present in modern Mario games in its narrative.
Visually, The Super Mario Bros. Movie is stunning and is probably the best thing about it. It transforms the already stellar and iconic source material and marries it with a more western cartoon aesthetic that feels wholly appropriate for an Illumination film that doesn’t stray too far from Miyamoto’s established aesthetic. Of course, The Super Mario Bros. Movie also happens to feature an all-star cast. Despite my reservations about many of the characters not having that over-the-top inflection that cartoon characters tend to have, The Super Mario Bros. cast makes up this deficit with solid acting and bravado.
“Visually, The Super Mario Bros. Movie is stunning and is probably the best thing about it.”
Chris Pratt‘s Mario fits into that ‘untested hero rising up to the occasion’ archetype that echoes many of his past characters while also giving Mario a good jumping-off point (no pun intended) into the Goomba stomping, overall-clad hero we know and love. Charlie Day also masterfully morphs into the meek but willing Luigi, channelling his chaotic inner persona ala It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, which ultimately helps create a solid foil for his older brother.
The two standout performances, however, would easily be Jack Black as Bowser and Anya Taylor-Joy‘s take on Princess Peach. The latter transforms an otherwise mostly blank slate of a character into a fierce Princess worthy of her royalty and a welcome departure from the literal damsel in distress archetype typical of the character. Jack Black, instead, not only portrays Bowser as the imposing threat that he is but adds that distinct musically charged oomph the famed actor is known for, transforming Bowser into a genuinely funny and entertaining antagonizing force.
Where The Super Mario Bros. Movie briefly stumbles is in its pacing. With a runtime of 1H 32M, the movie feels like it often rushes through set pieces as fast as possible. It makes sure to establish its cinematic universe in a way that only serves as teasers for future projects rather than scenes that give the audience more time to digest and appreciate what’s on-screen.
Even still, The Super Mario Bros. Movie mostly nails what it sets out to do while being appropriate for both fans of Mario’s first outing on the original Nintendo Entertainment System and their children who may only be familiar with Illumination’s other iconic series that starts with the letter M.