The story of The Super Mario Bros. on their journey through the Mushroom Kingdom. (from IMDB)
If you were a child in the 80's, there's a good chance you were basically raised on Nintendo games, specifically The Super Mario Bros., the first game of which actually came bundled with the NES. The game was so popular, it spawned two sequels on the NES, and spin-offs like Dr. Mario and Yoshi. Many, many more Mario-themed games have followed since, and he has been a staple of Nintendo and its gaming systems ever since. The runaway success of the character spawned a live action 1993 feature film that bore little to know actual resemblance to the game or its characters. It was a theatrical franchise killer, and although there was a fairly popular cartoon/live action TV series in 1989, we haven't seen a real, genuine Super Mario Bros. movie get released... until now.
Folks, The Super Mario Bros. Movie is the Super Mario movie fans have been waiting for since we first played World 1-1. Brought to us by Illumination, the animation studio that gave us the Despicable Me franchise and a gorgeously rendered computer animated take on the Grinch, The Super Mario Bros. Movie is the kind of movie one would expect for these characters and series. Presented mostly as a fun, action-packed animated romp stuffed to overflowing with inside references and Easter eggs, The Super Mario Bros. Movie is an absolute blast and catered entirely for true fans of the video games.
Some critics have attacked the film for having a fairly thin plot, but let's be honest, we're not fans of Mario and the gang for the story. They're super fun games that have some of the most memorable music in video gaming and some of the most addicting levels and gameplay. Mario games are pretty consistently awesome, and they almost all have great replay value. The Super Mario Bros. Movie is clearly made specifically, first and foremost, for Super Mario fans. It gets most of its humor and appeal from its constant references to various video games and scenarios. Sure, many - especially critics - may feel like it's dead on arrival just for being a video game adaptation, but The Super Mario Bros. Movie feels so much more like an homage to the series than just an attempt to make a series of stories based on a popular game series. While it may seem like a no-brainer to do live action adaptations of games like Tomb Raider or Uncharted, the Super Mario Bros. franchise just screams for the animation treatment - and it honestly surprises me that it's taken this long for it to happen.
The Super Mario Bros. Movie is just pure delight. It's a celebration of a global phenomenon, and not only does Illumination continue giving viewers absolutely gorgeous animated visuals, but everything from the character design and voice work on down to the score from Brian Tyler work together well to bring these characters to life in a fun, new way. I was actually surprised to see Mario and Luigi being given some backstory as brothers who decide to go into business together as plumbers. Their brotherly bond is tight, too, and Luigi looks up to his older brother for guidance and support. Mario also loves his little brother, and prides himself on protecting and caring for his fellow plumber sibling. It's an endearing relationship that proves to be the real heart of this story. But let's be honest here - the story is second to what the movie actually is. The more cynical might want to write the movie off as an hour-and-a-half commercial -- like The LEGO Movie -- but it's just too enjoyable to warrant that. I must have been grinning like an idiot for most of the movie, and my 12-year-old son declared it to be one of his all-time favorite movies now (and that's something he doesn't say often at all). It may never win an award, sure, but it's just super fun and enjoyable.
The story follows the Mario brothers as they try using their expertise as plumbers to save Brooklyn when a flooding disaster happens. However, the pair are soon swept into one of those signature green pipes and find themselves in The Mushroom Kingdom. It also just happens to be when the evil King Koopa, Bowser, is attempting to gain power over the kingdom and try to win Princess Peach's hand in marriage -- even if it means taking it by force. When Mario and Luigi are split up upon their arrival in the Mushroom Kingdom, Mario seeks out Peach in hopes to find his brother, and she ends up enlisting his help to save the kingdom from Bowser's tyranny. Yup, it sounds a lot like any given Super Mario game plot, but the movie takes us on one fun "road" adventure that strings together some of the best things the Super Mario universe has to offer.
The content for the movie is definitely PG-rated, but mostly because of violence. There's no language in the movie, but Luigi does refer to an angry, violent dog as a "h*ll hound" once. Otherwise, there is no profanity in the movie. The jokes are also not crude; the only real content to maybe be concerned about is violence. The roughest moments may be some scary scenes involving The Darklands, specifically these zombie-like skeleton turtles that chase Luigi and grab at him. It's all played for laughs - especially if you're familiar with the games - but it could definitely creep out or scare some kids. Otherwise, there's a lot of cartoony action violence throughout the entire film, especially with poor Mario getting beaten up constantly. This is kind of an origin story for the Super Mario we play as in the video games, so we see the little red-hat-wearing hero get kicked, punched, smacked, squashed, etc from start to finish. In one of the movie's final scenes, his face is bruised and his eye is swollen, with some scrapes on his face too.
Lots of controversy swirled around the web when Chris Pratt was cast as the voice of Mario, and it only got worse when the voice was revealed in the first teaser trailer. However, after hearing him - and Charlie Day's Luigi - in the film, I have to say it works! Pratt gives Mario a slight Brooklyn accent, which helps Mario not sound like Emmet from The LEGO Movie or any number of his live action characters. And Jack Black surprisingly knocks it out of the park as Bowser. And when Bowser gets a chance to sing (oh, yes), Black lets his personality seep through, and it's delightful. Finally, Anya Taylor-Joy is perfect as Peach, and Seth Rogen adds a lot to making Donkey Kong a lot of fun as well.
I've only seen The Super Mario Bros. Movie once so far, but I couldn't be more pleased with my first watch. It's a beautifully animated film, a cute story, super fun, and just an all-around wonderful nod to the legacy of The Super Mario Bros. Ignore the critics; if you're a fan of the characters and/or the games, this movie is an absolute must to see. It's a feel-good movie through and through.
And yes, there is a mid-credits bonus scene and a little tease after the credits for who may be joining the gang if there is a sequel!- John DiBiase (reviewed: 4/7/23)
Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not exclusively on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion and experience of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's overall rating.
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