The Super Mario Bros. Movie warped into cinemas this week, hoping to surpass the video game movie adaptations that have come before it. The Super Mario Bros. Movie is the latest family animated feature by Illumination Entertainment (Despicable Me franchise) and Universal Studios. With the current nostalgia craze, and the Super Nintendo World Universal theme parks rapidly opening up around the globe, this film couldn’t have come out at a better time. Let’s just hope this doesn’t mark “game over” for our favourite plumbing duo.
Mario (Chris Pratt), an aspirational, clumsy plumber from Brooklyn NY, gets accidentally transported into the Mushroom Kingdom where he must embark on a perilous journey alongside his new companions – Princess Peach (Anya Taylor-Joy) and Toad (Keegan-Michael Key). Their mission is to rescue Mario’s brother, Luigi (Charlie Day), and stop the villainous Bowser (Jack Black), a merciless fire-breathing Koopa, from destroying the entire kingdom.
For as long as I can remember I’ve been a Nintendo fan. From the N64 to the Nintendo Switch, I have thoroughly enjoyed every console that the Japanese developer has put out. The high-quality and unique gameplay elements that Nintendo brings to each of its games cemented themselves in my fondest childhood memories. The first game I ever played was Super Mario 64 on my Nintendo 64 when I was barely old enough to hold a controller, so it was safe to say I was incredibly excited to see this film.
Thankfully, Illumination Entertainment and Universal Studios have truly 1-upped themselves. This is a must-see film for Super Mario fans of all generations; a story full of heart and a true passion for the beloved Nintendo franchise. Though the bar has previously been set incredibly low for video game film adaptations, we have seen some big improvements in recent years. In my opinion, The Super Mario Bros. Movie easily takes the win as the best video game film. Right from the opening scene, this film is crammed full of references. I tried my best to spot them all, but I assume multiple rewatches and frame-by-frame Youtube breakdowns will be needed to fully appreciate all the Easter Eggs. This love and attention to detail by all those involved with the film is heartwarming to see.
There is lots to love about The Super Mario Bros. Movie. The animation is absolutely stunning and is easily one of the most aesthetically pleasing CG films I’ve seen. The attention to detail in every shot – from foreground to background – is just mesmerising. The expansive world that directors Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic (Teen Titans GO! franchise) have created is one that is yearning to be explored. We see only a fraction of the Mushroom Kingdom in this film, but with enough box office success we can hopefully come back to do some much needed exploration.
When Mario’s voice actor was first cast, it was initially a point of contention with a lot of fans like myself. Chris Pratt being cast as our favourite Italian plumber was a divisive decision to say the least. Though I do enjoy Pratt in his Guardian and Jurassic roles, I’ve never really seen much range from him – and small samples of his voice work that were released didn’t give me much hope. Unfortunately, my suspicions were confirmed. Throughout the film I never could hear Mario, only Chris Pratt. He was the only cast member that didn’t easily win me over once I started watching the movie. The rest of the voice cast was stellar. Jack Black’s Bowser and Seth Rogen’s Donkey Kong were standouts to me, and I couldn’t fault the rest of the cast.
Another excellent aspect to The Super Mario Bros. winning formula was composer Brian Tyler (Avengers: Age of Ultron) who elevates this film with epic orchestral renditions of Koji Kondo’s classic Super Mario score. This symphony of visual and audio delight enhances the movie in a way I wasn’t expecting.
Though I do feel the whole family could enjoy this film, it is first and foremost for younger audiences. The plot is rather simple and never really does anything unexpected. The same can be said about the humour, it definitely skews towards a younger demographic. Thankfully it never devolves to fart jokes or dated meme references, but there weren’t many times I chuckled during this film. I would have hoped for a little more innuendo humour akin to Shrek (2001) for the older audience members in the cinema.
If you’re a Nintendo fan of any age, you’re going to get a kick out of The Super Mario Bros. Movie. It’s incredibly well-made and has been crafted by a skilled team of writers, directors and animators who give it their all. I can only hope this is the first in an expanded universe of animated Nintendo films (someone trademark NCU) which are crafted with as much love as this film was.