Connect with us


‘The Super Mario Bros.’ Movie’ Review: Zippy Animated Version Breathes New Life Into Beloved Video Game



After the debacle that was the 1993 live-action Super Mario Brothers movie adaptation, the creators of the new animated version clearly felt the need to restore the faith of the wildly popular video game’s legions of fans. While devoted players will weigh in on whether the film fulfills that goal sufficiently, The Super Mario Bros. Movie feels like a labor of love that should easily weather any nitpicking from purists. It should also prove a major cash cow for co-producers Nintendo, Illumination Entertainment and Universal Pictures, with sequels and spin-offs virtually guaranteed.

While Matthew Fogel’s screenplay won’t win any awards, it builds a reasonable framework for the 90 minutes of nearly nonstop mayhem that ensues. The film provides an origin story for Mario (Chris Pratt) and his younger brother Luigi (Charlie Day), first seen as regular joe Brooklyn plumbers starting their own business, much to the derision of their former boss, Spike (Sebastian Maniscalco). They even star in a television commercial advertising their services, in which they speak with thick Italian accents that they don’t actually have. (There was much brouhaha early on about Pratt not sporting the heavy accent that the game’s longtime Mario, Charles Martinet, employed, which this plot element seems cleverly designed to address. Pratt does, however, throw in the occasional “Mamma mia!” for emphasis.)

The Super Mario Bros. Movie

The Bottom Line

Effectively erases the stench of the live-action version.

Release datee: Wednesday, April 5
Cast: Chris Pratt, Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Day, Jack Black, Keegan-Michael Key, Seth Rogen, Fred Armisen, Sebastian Maniscalco, Charles Martinet, Kevin Michael Richardson
Directors: Aaron Horvath, Michael Jelenic
Screenwriter: Matthew Fogel

Rated PG, 1 hour 32 minutes

After an amusing slapstick episode involving a routine plumbing job turned into a catastrophe by an aggressive pooch, the brothers take it upon themselves to attempt to fix a broken water main underneath the Brooklyn streets. When Luigi falls down a mysterious pipe and disappears, Mario dives in after him and finds himself in the magical Mushroom Kingdom. With the aid of the upbeat Toad (Keegan Michael-Key), the first resident he encounters, Mario embarks on a mission to rescue his brother from the clutches of the evil Bowser (Jack Black), the ferocious turtle leader of the Koopas, who is intent on conquering the Mushroom Kingdom.

To that end, he must team up with the Mushroom Kingdom’s ruler, Princess Peach (Anya Taylor-Joy, utilizing her sultry raspiness), who’s definitely no shrinking violet when it comes to fighting. Complicating matters is the fact that Bowser is obsessed with the Princess, as demonstrated by his passionate rendition of a rock ‘n’ roll power ballad devoted to her, of the sort that Kiss or Poison would have approved. That scene, resembling a cheesy music video, is one of the film’s funniest, thanks to the impassioned vocals of Black, who brings his Tenacious D-style A game. His exuberant voice work throughout lifts the film to another level.

The film features one jam-packed sequence after another, one highlight being Mario’s titanic battle with Donkey Kong (Seth Rogen, sounding exactly like himself but still hilarious), in which his determination and resourcefulness become fully apparent. The fast-paced action effectively approximates the gaming experience; Brian Tyler’s equally frenetic soundtrack cleverly riffs on the game’s musical themes by composer Koji Kando, providing suitable accompaniment.

The plot is as basic as can be, and character development is clearly not a priority. Considering Day’s terrific voice work as Luigi, it seems a shame that the character disappears for such long stretches. But directors Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic, creators of the Teen Titans Go! series, deliver a reasonably faithful big screen adaptation that, while it features plenty of juvenile humor, wisely doesn’t lean toward broad satire.

Fans will be delighted by the many Easter eggs liberally scattered throughout the proceedings — I’m sure I missed the vast majority of them, but there were plenty of appreciative laughs and cheers at the press screening — including the vocal cameos by the original Mario voice performer. Martinet and other game veterans.

As usual for Illumination films, the brightly colored animation pops in consistently appealing character and scenic designs. The brisk 92-minute running time is another plus, especially for younger attention spans; this feels especially welcome when so many bloated animated movies come closer to the two-hour mark.

Check the latest Hollywood news here.