THE SUPER MARIO BROS. MOVIE review by Mark Walters – Chris Pratt takes on the voice of Nintendo’s hero

THE SUPER MARIO BROS. MOVIE review by Mark Walters – Chris Pratt takes on the voice of Nintendo’s hero

Born in 1974, I was very much still a child of the 80s, playing arcade games and spending way too much time with my Nintendo Home Entertainment System. I knew Mario in the arcade, and at home, and was very much what you’d call a Nintendo nerd. But eventually you get older and grow out of those interests… ya can’t play video games forever. Mario has lived on for multiple generations thanks to newer and more advanced game systems, and sequel games to keep the characters alive and evolving. A new animated THE SUPER MARIO BROS. MOVIE is hitting theaters this week from Universal Pictures and Illumination Studios, the same folks behind the DESPICABLE ME and MINIONS movies. Oh, and Nintendo is very much involved in this, making sure their characters maintain the integrity they’ve cultivated over decades of popularity.

Mario (Chris Pratt) and Luigi (Charlie Day) are two plumbers living in Brooklyn, NY. Struggling to venture out on their own and grow their business, no one seems to have confidence in them, not even their own family. Their first house call goes disastrously bad. Soon, the brothers discover an underground labyrinth of pipes, and find themselves sucked into a hidden universe and separated. Luigi is taken to a dark realm reigned by a large and menacing fire-breathing turtle named Bowser (Jack Black) who wants to control all of the other kingdoms by force. Mario finds himself in a colorful land ruled by Princess Peach (Anya Taylor-Joy) and her army of adorable mushroom people. Once they become aware of Bowser’s plan, Mario and the Princess prepare for a battle of incredible odds, in hopes of keeping peace among the kingdoms, and even enlist the help of Donkey Kong (Seth Rogen) and his people, but it may already be too late.

THE SUPER MARIO BROS. MOVIE is big and colorful, and for the most part quite fun with loving nods to the original games and a terrific voice cast… even Chris Pratt, who was heavily ridiculed after being cast as Mario (I guess because he’s not Italian?), does a fine job portraying the underdog hero of the story, though it does feel like his role was intentionally kept a bit light on dialogue in some scenes. Charlie Day fares a little better as Luigi, though the character spends most of the time scared and seemingly helpless, and I would have liked to see him show a little more bravery than what we ended up getting. Anya Taylor-Joy is fine as the Princess, though I feel like that voice could have been anyone, as the reading she gives for it is pretty uninspired. Seth Rogen is a fun choice for Donkey Kong, and Fred Armisen is pretty great as his dad Cranky Kong. One of my favorite characters was Toad, voiced by Keegan Michael-Key, a tiny mushroom warrior with a big heart and big aspirations. And Jack Black really sounds like he’s having fun playing Bowser, giving that character much more layering than the games ever did. He even gets to do a bit of singing, which are some of the standout parts of the film.

The movie is very well done and it looks like a considerable amount of time and energy went into it, but I just didn’t feel terribly invested in it, and in the end I’m not sure it’s a production I’d want to revisit many more times, if ever. The whole time I was watching it I kept thinking this would be great for kids and families, but I was surprised how little I felt wowed by it, especially being a passionate fan of the source material. It’s also possible that like with the original games, I’ve just aged out a bit with my interest level. If I was still a teenager who loved video games, this might seem like the best movie ever made, rather than just another polished animated film.

Illumination Studios makes wonderful movies that always look and feel terrific in almost every regard, but I was also getting a little burned out on the Minions after they branched out info their own movies… I feel like in cases like those, a little goes a long way. With THE SUPER MARIO BROS. MOVIE, I enjoyed the film enough to praise it and call it a solid effort, but I just don’t think I’d say it was anything beyond what I expected it to be. It feels like it’s trying really hard to please the fans, even the masterful score by Brian Tyler goes out of its way to include memorable cues from the game music. They also managed to pack a LOT of Mario game references into one film, such as references to the original Donkey Kong games, the original Mario Bros game, of course Super Mario, and even Mario Kart and the games that followed… so much so that they got to a point where I no longer understood the little things they were paying homage to. And it’s all compartmentalized into a respectable 92-minute run time that never gets bogged down or boring. For what this movie is and what it’s meant to be, it does its job well. And perhaps if I had kids and took them to see it, my experience would have been more rewarding. Chances are if you liked the original games, you’ll be able to feed off the nostalgia enough to forgive the shortcomings here. I enjoyed it, I just didn’t love it the way I hoped I would… but your mileage may vary.

THE SUPER MARIO BROS. MOVIE opens April 5, 2022

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About the Author

Born and raised in Dallas, Mark has been a movie critic since 1994, with reviews featured in print, radio and National TV. In 2001 he started the Entertainment section of the Herorealm website, where he contributed film reviews and celebrity interviews until 2004. After three years of service there, he started, which has become one of the Dallas film community's leading information websites. Bigfanboy hosts several movie screenings in the Texas area, and works closely with film and TV studios and promotional partners to host exciting events and contests. The site also features a variety of rare celebrity and filmmaker interviews, and regularly covers the film festival circuit as well. In addition to Hollywood reporting, Mark has worked for many years as an advertising and sci-fi/comic book artist. Clients have included Lucasfilm Ltd., Topps Trading Cards, The Dallas Mavericks and The Dallas Stars. From 2002 until 2015 he managed the Dallas Comic Con, Sci-Fi Expo and Fan Days events in the DFW area. He currently catalogs rare comic books and movie memorabilia for Heritage Auctions, and runs the Dallas Comic Show conventions, but remains an avid moviegoer and cinema buff.