The Super Mario Bros. Movie (2023) Review!!

Synopsis – The story of The Super Mario Bros. on their journey through the Mushroom Kingdom.

My Take – With video game adaptations finally having their moment, I guess it seemed like the perfect time to bring Super Mario Bros, our favorite floating-box jumping, gold-coin-collecting plumbers to life, to cash in, especially considering how difficult it is to pin point anyone who hasn’t played the Nintendo‘s smash-hit game sensation, that has existed for almost half a century, particularly the 1985 game, at least once in their lives.

Understandably, it took Nintendo three decades to make such an attempt considering the travesty the 1993 live-action film, but in the hands of Illumination, the studio behind funny, fuzzy, feel-good franchises like Despicable Me, The Secret Life of Pets and Sing, the iconic character finally gets the onscreen adventure he always deserved.

Becoming a perfect example on how to adapt a video game property for both the intended young audience and the nostalgic adult crowd.

Constantly and joyfully entertaining, directors Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic’s film delights with the infectious energy and smart implementations of video game callbacks, with the top-notch animation rendering the Mushroom Kingdom as a colorful wonderland that begs to be explored in the inevitable sequels that will follow. If you are a fan of Nintendo, then you will have a blast.

Sure, the film may not appeal to anyone who have never been fans of the games featuring the titular brothers. But given the fact that writer Matthew Fogel was tasked with creating something that would cater to a fan base that spans four decades, that too with a myriad of tastes and expectations, he does a pretty good job. In fact, a way better job than I was expecting.

The story follows Mario (voiced by Chris Pratt) and Luigi (voiced by Charlie Day), two down-on-their-luck Italian-American brothers, in Brooklyn, New York, who have decided to leave their day jobs and start their own plumbing business. Hoping to change the tide in their favor, Mario and Luigi attempt to fix a dangerous leak which has been plaguing the city. That’s when, buried deep below they stumble upon a warp pipe and get sucked into it.

Splitting the brothers up. While Mario lands in the friendly Mushroom Kingdom, quickly befriends the adventure seeking Toad (voiced by Keegan-Michael Key), who immediately decides to take him to their leader, Princess Peach (voiced by Anya Taylor-Joy), to help him reunite with his brother.

Luigi lands in the Dark Lands, ruled by Bowser (voiced by Jack Black), the evil Koopa king, who after recently acquiring a Super Star is threatening to take over everything. Teaming up in this wild-and-wooly landscape, Mario and Peach head out to form an alliance with the Jungle Kingdom, led by King Cranky Kong (voiced by Fred Armisen) and his son, Donkey Kong (voiced by Seth Rogen), to stop the Koopa invasion and save Luigi.

Granted, the story is simple, yet it works wonders with the excellent characters that perfectly reflect their gaming counterparts. The film is packed with non-stop action and fast-paced storytelling, leaving little room for some of the more significant elements that fans might have wanted to see. The script from Matthew Fogel is filled with enough humor and references to keep us from feeling bored, and directors Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic deliver some inspired sequences.

There’s no lack of visual flair, the vibrant color, the familiar whimsical world full of floating blocks, power-ups, and secret tunnels. It also has the right level of kinetic energy to keep things constantly in motion, jumping from one gag and/or action sequence to another. Bowser, for his part, is probably the funniest character in the film.

Like virtually every super-villain ever, Bowser wants to rule the universe, but he also wants to marry Peach, that too the right way, with romance and attentiveness. Even going so far as to compose and sing a ballad about her. Then there’s Lumalee (voiced by Juliet Jelenic), a nihilistic blue Luma, who bums out everyone with talk of how the only certainty in life is death.

Yes, while the film is made squarely for children, it does not short change the decades-long fans (like myself) who grew up with all this in the 1980s and 90s. Every scene or music cue here is imbued with at least some sort of significance to the broader Mario universe.

Sure, the under-cooked emotional arcs don’t get the same attention as the aesthetics, something not helped by a paint-by-numbers plot that keeps Mario and Luigi away from each other for half the film, but co-directors Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic and their army of animators keep us busy doing a splendid job of delivering one callback after another to so many elements and characters from the beloved and globally popular video game.

The most recent Mario games have great graphics, but it was both strange and amazing to see these characters in this amazing-looking world by Illumination. Everything looked so original and good, and it was just like being inside games in a realistic way.

Voice performance wise, Chris Pratt does a decent job letting all reservations to rest. Not a surprise considering how he has already proved himself in a very role in The Lego Film (2014). Anya Taylor-Joy brings an optimistic spirit, while Charlie Day and Keegan-Michael Key are equally good.

Fred Armisen and Seth Rogen are fantastically funny as you’d expect them, and are equally well supported by Kevin Michael Richardson, Khary Payton, Sebastian Maniscalco, and the original voice of Mario, Charles Martinet. With of course, Jack Black undoubtedly stealing the show. On the whole, ‘The Super Mario Bros. Movie is a visually striking video-game adaptation that is both enduring and entertaining.

Directed – Aaron Horvath,

Starring (voices of) – Chris Pratt, Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Day

Rated – PG

Run Time – 92 minutes

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