The Super Mario Bros. Movie Review | WAHOO!

Despite my gripes with the film, they are just very minor nitpicks as The Super Mario Bros. Movie is amazing and a fun watch.

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Everyone knows Mario. In both gaming and general pop culture, characters like Mario, Luigi, Peaches, and Bowser have been around for multiple generations. Who knew that a jumping Italian plumber would be one of the most recognizable characters ever created? That’s the magic Nintendo has alongside their other IPs. With video game adaptations becoming more and more well-received by fans, critics, and box-office profits, it’s only a matter of time till Nintendo jumps in on the fun. And oh boy, did they do so with phenomenal results. The Super Mario Bros. Movie is everything that I wanted with this type of film and then some. It’s creative, gorgeously animated, and just a whole lot of fun to be had.

The movie gets off to a great start with the introduction of Bowser. He looks great, sounds enjoyably menacing, and Jack Black is having the time of his life bringing this character to the big screen. He steals every scene he is in as he commands attention with an extremely likable characterization. I remember thinking to myself: not a single frame of this was acted by Jack Black. This is just him being him and I’m all here for it. Amazing casting and you should definitely look out for a particular moment he’ll have that will be stuck in your head long after the credits roll.

(from left) Luigi (Charlie Day) and Bowser (Jack Black) in Nintendo and Illumination’s The Super Mario Bros. Movie, directed by Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic.

The movie also starts contextualizing Mario and Luigi in the real world. They’re just regular dudes trying to start up their own plumber business. It’s also in these opening moments where the internal conflict is set up: Mario feels a lot of pressure to be successful in what he does because people look down on him and by extension, his brother, Luigi. They are nobodies who people barely pay attention to. But, they don’t let this drag them down as Mario is more than determined to turn things around, refusing to quit no matter how many times he fails—a nice nod to respawning in a video game and Mario’s can-do positive attitude that has remained intact across 200+ titles. 

From the get-go, they nail Mario and Luigi’s depictions. One is the main protagonist who despite having the weight of the world on his shoulders, continues to jump along while the other is scared of getting caught up in all of it but still rises to the task with the proper push. There’s also a brief sequence that is just a beautiful nod to the sidescrolling era of the franchise. This is the first of many references the film makes that prove just how much the filmmakers care and respect the IP. 

(from left) Mario (Chris Pratt) and Princess Peach (Anya Taylor-Joy) in Nintendo and Illumination’s The Super Mario Bros. Movie, directed by Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic.

It’s not long till the Mario brothers find themselves in a world they’re not familiar with and are suddenly roped into trying to save the Mushroom Kingdom from Bowser. This is where we get introduced to Anya Taylor Joy’s Princess Peach who does more than just be a damsel in distress. At the core of it all, The Super Mario Bros Movie is an Isekai story and Princess Peach acts as a wonderful mentor to Mario as he learns the rules of the world and what the power-ups can do. 

With Mario and Luigi being awestruck, terrified, and surprised by a lot of the things they see acts as a perfect vessel for the audience to relate to, and rightfully so, the visuals present in the film are so wonderfully animated. It’s a beautiful film. I had my eyes glued to the screen trying to catch details hidden in the background. 

(from left) Donkey Kong (Seth Rogen), Mario (Chris Pratt), Princess Peach (Anya Taylor-Joy) and Cranky Kong (Fred Armisen) in Nintendo and Illumination’s The Super Mario Bros. Movie, directed by Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic.

The action sequences are a spectacle to behold. They are energetically paced, oozing with character, and so many elements from the games are smoothly integrated. There are so many things to point out in this film that come from different Mario titles. Mario Maker, Luigi’s Mansion, Mario Kart, and even Smash Bros just to name a handful. This film is jampacked with references that are all complimented with phenomenal musical motifs that borrow from iconic themes from the franchise. 

We’ve already given some of the voice cast their flowers but let’s address the elephant in the room. Yes, there was a bit of a controversy regarding Chris Pratt’s casting as Mario. At the start, I’ll admit, it was a little difficult to remove the fact that I was just hearing Pratt’s higher tone but as the film goes on, you’ll barely notice it anymore. Mario is not really a man of many words so in terms of the usual grunts and reactions, Pratt nails the character. Obviously, they won’t have Mario do his exaggerated Italian accent all throughout the runtime. I liked how he speaks with a regular tone of voice and would just sometimes revert back to the usual mannerisms we all know and love. He does nail the “WAHOO!” and drops it in moments that rightfully call for it. So props on that. Pratt did a great job. 

(from left) Mario (Chris Pratt) and Luigi (Charlie Day) in Nintendo and Illumination’s The Super Mario Bros. Movie, directed by Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic.

Charlie Day’s Luigi is great considering that he panics for most of the movie, which is exactly what Charlie Day is excellent at. Considering that he’s portraying a character that is usually sidelined in the franchise, he does give Luigi a great sense of presence in the film. I only wish they could’ve used more of him but he does get his time to shine in a fantastic Luigi’s Mansion sequence. He had the potential to be more of an emotional center of the film that would’ve made the payoff in the third act all the more powerful but it’s just a slight missed opportunity rather than an egregious sin. 

At first, I was skeptical about Seth Rogen’s Donkey Kong. They even went as far as to use his extremely recognizable chuckle but once again, the characterization, presentation, and enjoyable energy of the whole thing just made it all work. Keegan Michael-Key’s Toad is the one character that I felt could’ve used a bit more depth. He initially acts as Mario’s guide at the beginning but once Princess Peach comes into the picture, he becomes a little irrelevant. Still a fun presence when he’s on-screen, but I just wanted more out of him. 

(from left) Mario (Chris Pratt), Princess Peach (Anya Taylor-Joy) and Toad (Keegan-Michael Key) in Nintendo and Illumination’s The Super Mario Bros. Movie, directed by Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic.

In all honesty, all my gripes with the film are just very minor nitpicks. I was smiling for 1 hour and 32 minutes straight which is another way of saying that The Super Mario Brothers Movie is amazing. You won’t find Oscar-worthy writing here and in times, you will question some decisions being made by particular characters but at the end of the day, I had so much fun watching this film. 

The countless references, amazing mixing of iconic musical motifs, well-directed action sequences, and actors having the time of their lives with their respective characters are all worth the price of admission. It doesn’t matter how old you are, there is something here to enjoy. Watch this in a theater. Experience it as children light up with glee seeing their favorite characters on the big screen and cheer with the grown-ups as you spot references in classic games you grew up loving. The Super Mario Bros. Movie is one of the best video game films ever made and here’s to hoping that Nintendo carries this quality on with their other IPs.

THE SUPER MARIO BROS. MOVIE will open nationwide in cinemas on April 19 from Universal Pictures International.