Between The Super Mario Bros. Movie and Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, Hollywood has been on a hot streak of redeeming itself from its previous terrible attempts at cinematic game adaptations. Unfortunately, the failure of the 1993 Super Mario Bros. film prevented Nintendo from making any more movies with their IP until now. Illumination, the animation studio behind Despicable Me and Sing, gives us a new adventure that turns out to be a lot of fun, capturing (most of) the heart of the video games we grew up playing.
The film opens with the evil Bowser (Jack Black) taking control of the Dark Lands. The humor works well while establishing Bowser as a force to be reckoned with. We are then introduced to Mario (Chris Pratt) and Luigi (Charlie Day), two Italian-American plumbers in Brooklyn. After they try unsuccessfully to fix a leak, they find themselves sent to another world where Bowser imprisons Luigi, and Mario must team up with Princess Peach (Anya Taylor-Joy) and Toad (Keegan-Michael Key) to save him. This adventure has a ton of entertainment value, offering something for audiences young and old.
Children will love this movie for its humor, bright colors, and sense of adventure. Adults will love this movie because they grew up playing the Super Mario Bros. video games, and the film is filled to the brim with easter eggs. Lovers of the games will be happy to see scenes that are taken directly from the source material. This movie sometimes feels more like a series of references to the games, strung together by a thin story designed for nostalgia. While that is the film’s greatest strength, it is also its greatest weakness.
The Super Mario Bros. Movie will make you mindlessly happy, but the pacing is too fast. The film always feels like it’s sprinting from plot point to plot point, never slowing down to develop the characters’ motivations or give them anything of substance. While the movie is full of excitement and has all the basics of an underdog story, the heart and soul are not there enough to allow this movie to be any greater than it could have been. The film is only 92 minutes long with credits, and when you have a movie to this scale, it really should have had more time to breathe and allow the sequences to take shape.
But what about the voice cast? Chris Pratt got some internet ridicule over his Mario voice from the trailers that sounded a lot like, well, Chris Pratt. However, he is excellent in the movie. An early scene establishes that Pratt is fully capable of doing a game-accurate Mario voice while also demonstrating how annoying the film would be if he spoke that way the entire time. He brings a perfectly appropriate Brooklyn accent to the character and sounds great every time he does one of Mario’s catchphrases, which is crucial to nail.
Day and Joy are excellent as Luigi and Peach, but the rest of the cast outshines them. Black is phenomenal as Bowser, offering a villainous voice to his role as King of the Koopas. Key is unrecognizable as Toad, bringing a fantastic vibrance to his character. Seth Rogen brings his trademark voice and laugh to Donkey Kong, the only role that may take you out of the experience a little since all you hear is Rogen. But he’s fun to listen to, and the comedically gifted cast elevates the irreverent humor within this film.
The Super Mario Bros. Movie is hilarious, offering many laugh-out-loud moments and fan service. The Mario Kart sequence is a standout, and the animation and character designs are incredible. While the film occasionally suffers from its abundance of overused ’80s rock songs (including “Holding Out For a Hero,” which already appeared this past month in Shazam! Fury of the Gods and Tetris), composer Brian Tyler uses the iconic theme music at the right moments. While this movie is only about as good as Illumination films typically are, it’s just fun enough to leave you wanting more and shouting, “Wahoo!”
As ComingSoon’s review policy explains, a score of 7 equates to “Good.” A successful piece of entertainment that is worth checking out, but it may not appeal to everyone.