The latest Super Mario Bros. movie has been hotly anticipated for the year of 2023. Not only could it open the door for other Nintendo-related movies to come (Legend of Zelda, Metroid, Super Smash Bros. etc.) but it is also adapting arguably THE most beloved video game character of all time. Your enjoyment of this film is highly dependent on the expectations you have going in and what you want out of it. Do you want a deep character exploration of Mario and his friends? Maybe an abundance of Easter Eggs and references to many of the titles? Is it a family fun movie on the likes of Disney Pixar, or made more for kids? Depending on what you’re expecting will determine how you feel walking out, but from my perspective The Super Mario Bros. Movie is a fun time at the theaters even if it falls short in plot, characterization, and overall world building
Much has already been said about Chris Pratt voicing the character of Mario, and I will say the voicework did not bother me as much as people had me thinking it would. There is no replacing the iconic voicework of Mario that is incorporated into the games and to even try and do a full recreation would be picked apart for years to come. Pratt makes the character’s voice work on his own and I never was in disbelief that this was the Mario character. The other voice actors are great with Anya Taylor Joy’s Peach, Charlie Day’s Luigi, Jack Black’s Bowser, and Seth Rogen’s Donkey Kong are helping to round out the cast. Never have been a huge critic of voice acting but from what I saw was solid.
Out of all the relationships to make sure they get right, Mario and Luigi offer an endearing brotherly love with one another that serves as a good center for the film’s heart. However, like many other parts of the film, this relationships isn’t explored or focused on enough to help give the film an extra layer. The scenes that they are together are a treat, and there is a strong relationship there that I wish we could have seen more of. Bowser on the other hand is exactly what I expected to be with the voice of Jack Black, opting for over the top and hilarious villainy as opposed to trying to be super methoidcal.
The core of the story centers around a classic Mario game plot with Bowser wanting to take over the Mushroom Kingdom and Mario teaming up with his friends to stop him. The plot of the Mario games has never been the standout for fans, and here it is simple and derivative. That didn’t necessarily bother me as much but I would love to see what future stories could do in expanding out the world and taking the characters in new and fun directions. The world of the Mushroom kingdom and the other settings they visit do feel alive thanks to the stellar animation work there. It’s a beautiful recreation of iconic environments that will surely bring some nostalgia to fans of the franchise.
Hard core fans of Mario going into this movie should recognize that the film is primarily targeted at kids and is not at the emotional and deep level of a Pixar film. There are some fun laughs for more mature audiences and an abundance of references to satisfy the die hard fans, but for the most part the story, characters, and jokes are targeted towards kids. Could the Mario movie have gone for something bigger and more ambitious? Sure it most certainly could have. There are even scenes in the film (particularly a Mario Kart esque track) that could have been beefed up with a little more tension or excitement to it, but the film decides to play it safe. This is one example of the film’s mantra in appealing to the widest demographic without trying to forge something unique. It makes the film less memorable overall and somewhat dry by the end.
With that being said, I cannot imagine the incredibly hard task of adapting Mario to the big screen. Everyone will have different thoughts and opinions walking out and everyone has different expectations for what the future will be. I will say I did enjoy my time with the film but I don’t think I would be revisiting at any time soon. This one certainly could wait for streaming service, but also a nice family friendly film to take the kids to. I’ll be interested to see what they do next with this world and the possibilities that comes with Nintendo.
(C +) Safe