The Super Mario Bros. Movie Review

Let’s get this out of the way right out of the gate. The Mario Movie is not bad. It’s not great, but it’s not a bad movie. 

Every character has reasonable motivations that made sense, even if most of the characterizations are paper thin. But frankly, it’s a Mario Bros. movie. You want a fun experience at the very least, and this movie mostly delivers on that – especially for fans of Nintendo who grew up with Mario games. If you went in hoping for deep, fleshed-out characterizations, you went to the wrong movie.

It is mostly what I suspected it would be, which is to say it’s a greatest hits of Mario game moments worked into a story, and sometimes clumsily so. But there certainly is a novelty to seeing these characters and that iconic Nintendo universe brought to life on the big screen in such a big budget way. 

There are 2D and 3D platforming moments, a near Smash Bros-like scene, a Mario Kart segment, and plenty of Mario powerups. 

Hearing the iconic Nintendo songs from the games played by an orchestra and worked into the soundtrack is another reason to go see the movie. However, they could have done more to make Koji Kondo’s iconic music a more consistent backdrop to the proceedings. The filmmakers over at Illumination made the mistake of trying to work in a bunch of popular 80’s songs you hear in every animated movie these days. Apparently, they think if there’s anything that says “Donkey Kong Country” it’s A-Ha’s “Take on Me” and if there’s anything that says “Mario Kart” it’s AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck.”

If Illumination ever got the rights to make a Star Wars or Lord of the Rings movie (or insert any other iconic franchise), you can bet there would be multiple scenes with unnecessary pop music choices that would make you scratch your head over their inclusion. I often ask myself if a movie such as this would be made any better by the inclusion of licensed music. In most cases, the answer is definitely no.

But the music choices weren’t the only surprise here. Everyone lamented Chris Pratt’s casting as Mario when it was announced – at least in part because people love to hate on Chris Pratt on social media (and usually for no reason at all, or, more likely, for completely fake reasons). But in fairness, no one, myself included, thought Pratt made sense for an Italian plumber.

However, it wasn’t Pratt’s take on Mario that was the thing that pulled me out of the movie fairly regularly. I said from fairly early on that it might be weird at first to hear Pratt’s voice coming out of Mario’s mouth, but over the course of the movie we’d get used to it, and it wouldn’t be a thought in our minds by the end. That turned out to be the case here.

It was Seth Rogan’s voice and recognizable laugh coming out of Donkey Kong with little to no masking, and Jack Black basically just being Jack Black that turned out to be the more distracting vocal performances.

I like Jack Black, I really do. But it seems like they put him in a recording studio for a weekend and asked him to do his most over-the-top Jack Black take on what he thought Bowser would sound like if he talked, and yes sang, in a Mario game. And what we got was just purely Jack Black. Maybe that’s fine for some, but it was hard for me to not just hear and see Jack Black the entire time Bowser was on-screen.


There are also a number of plot contrivances that probably aren’t worth mentioning for this kind of movie, but I’ll do it anyway. 

The Mario Kart segment had to be set up some way, so they had to force it into the intro for the Kong village, even if it doesn’t necessarily make sense for it to be there (what is this Donkey Kong Kart?). 

A Bullet Bill seemingly destroys the pipe that brought Mario and Luigi to the Mushroom Kingdom, except instead it sucks just Mario and a few other members of the principal cast back into real-world Brooklyn (where the movie begins) so the climactic battle can happen where the city, and Mario’s family, can finally witness the Super Mario Bros. doing something right.

Just before Peach walks down the red carpet to meet Bowser for the wedding, she receives a bouquet of flowers from Toad that just so happens to include a powerup with a ice flower – deus ex machina style. We never see this powerup established previously (even if we as fans know it exists), nor do we see where it comes from. It’s awfully convenient. But they had to avoid Peach ever appearing to be a damsel in distress somehow – you know, modern Hollywood sensibilities and all that.

The movie also doesn’t commit hard enough to the themes of the Mario Bros sticking together, despite making it a key part of the climax of the film. Luigi is basically captured and sidelined fairly early on, so we spend very little time with him. 

And finally… I’ll say it seems as though they’re working up to a sequel, if not a full on cinematic universe. There’s an end credits scene featuring Yoshi, which would seem to point to continuing adventures (not to mention the incredible ticket sales for this movie). But also Peach, at one point, looks out to the stars and said there’s an infinite number of galaxies out there (or was it universes?). So either they could do a Mario Galaxy movie, or they’re pointing to future plans to bring in other iconic Nintendo franchises. I am very much in favor of that.

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