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Film Review: ‘The Super Mario Bros. Movie’ is Mostly Just a Kid-Friendly Commercial for the Video Games

Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures

There probably is not a more well-known, let alone successful, video game character in the world than Mario. There also likely isn’t a more notorious failed adaptation of a game than Super Mario Bros. back in 1993. So, there was an opportunity to do something special and unique with the property when Nintendo decided to partner with Illumination on The Super Mario Bros. Movie. Unfortunately, what we got is so bland and safe, it feels more like a commercial than an actual film.

The Super Mario Bros. Movie is akin to watching someone play a new Mario game. It seems fun if you’re in control, but to passively view? Not so much. Now, there are moments that work, and when the movie is allowed to be a little weird, that’s a plus as well. Mostly though, it’s aimed at very young audiences and mostly seems designed to make you want to buy some games. That’s honestly not a surprise and potentially even the intended goal, but hopes had been high for something less disposable than what we’ve got here.

Universal Pictures

Brooklyn plumbers and brothers Mario (voice of Chris Pratt) and Luigi (voice of Charlie Day) have just gone into business together. Their plumbing operation seems doomed to fail, their family doesn’t believe in them, and the odds are stacked against then. So, when a big opportunity to save the borough arises, Mario is eager to save the day. Unfortunately, they instead get sucked into a magical pipe, transporting them to the Mushroom Kingdon.

Separated, they each learn about the impending threat of Bowser (voice of Jack Black), King of the Koopas. Hoping to find Luigi, Mario teams up with Toad (voice of Keegan-Michael Key) on a journey to meet Princess Peach (voice of Anya Taylor-Joy). Mario wants assistance in finding his brother, so he goes with Peach on a quest to get Cranky Kong (voice of Fred Armisen) and his son Donkey Kong (voice of Seth Rogen) to deploy their Kong army in a shared mission to fight back Bowser. Of course, it will end up being on Mario, not just to reunite with his brother, but to save the kingdom.

Universal Pictures

The voice cast offers very little here, unfortunately. No one is bad, but nobody feels intrinsically linked with their character. Everyone sounds like a celebrity voice placed into the role, as opposed to trying to create a sound for them. Jack Black comes the closest, since he’s at least having fun, but the likes of Chris Pratt, Seth Rogen, and Anya Taylor-Joy end up more anonymous than they should be. Charlie Day and Keegan-Michael Key are completely wasted, while Fred Armisen is actively annoying. Supporting voices include John DiMaggio, Phil LaMarr, Sebastian Maniscalco, Khary Payton, Kevin Michael Richardson, and more, alongside original Mario voice Charles Martinet in a cameo.

Directors Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic, along with writer Matthew Fogel, take the path of least resistance. Horvath and Jelenic are responsible for Teen Titans GO! To the Movies, which had all the creativity asnd fun that’s lacking here. That makes this an even bigger shame, as they seemed like the right folks for the job. Fogel’s mixed bag, screenplay-wise, is more indicative of how this flick turned out. There’s good here, for sure, but also a lot of puzzling decisions. How old are Mario and Luigi, for example? Why waste time with the origin story essentially from the live-action film? There’s a struggle to create a reason to exist here, making the fun feel a bit hollow.

The Super Mario Bros. Movie is mostly just a kid-friendly commercial for the video games. A satisfying motion picture, it is not, even with occasional bursts of weird creativity. There’s a chance that the inevitable sequel will find more to offer up, but as it stands, this flick feels like a missed opportunity. Oh well.

SCORE: ★★1/2


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2 months ago


2 months ago

Pero andaaaa, gilastrún!!, que venís a hablar si nunca jugaste a Mario y ahora te la tiras de crítico, anda a mirar wakanda forever bobo!!

Robert Hamer
2 months ago
Reply to  Anonymous

¿Qué te hace pensar que Joey nunca ha jugado un juego de Mario?


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