To expand upon my quick thoughts in the video, The Super Mario Bros. Movie is a computer-animated adventure film based on the Nintendo video game franchise of the same name directed by Aaron Horvath (Teen Titans Go! To the Movies) and Michael Jelenic (in his feature directorial debut) from a screenplay written by Matthew Fogel (Minions: The Rise of Gru). Featuring the voice talents of Chris Pratt, Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Day, Jack Black, Keegan-Michael Key, Seth Rogen, and Fred Armisen; this is the second movie based on Super Mario Bros. after the live-action Super Mario Bros. (1993). The story follows Brooklyn-born Italian-American plumbers Mario and Luigi, who are transported to an alternate world and become entangled in a battle between the Mushroom Kingdom, led by Princess Peach, and the Koopas, led by Bowser.
In the Ice Kingdom, Bowser (Jack Black) arrives with his legion of Koopas and demands that its residents open the gates. The Penguin King (Khary Payton), the ruler of the Ice Kingdom obliges and sends his army to attack their adversaries. After pummeling Bowser and his army with snowballs Kamek (Kevin Michael Richardson), a Koopa sorcerer levitates and captures the penguins allowing Bowser to melt their ice castle to the ground with his fire breath. With his opponents incapacitated Bowser can enter the remains of the castle. Inside he locates a mystery box, cracking it open to reveal a Super Star.
In Brooklyn, New York Mario (Chris Pratt) and Luigi (Charlie Day) marvel at their new commercial having recently left their old job and started a plumbing business. After a hostile run-in with their old boss Spike (Sebastian Maniscalco), the brothers get a call to fix a leaky faucet. After realizing their van is busted the brothers run several blocks to reach the house on time. While being led to the bathroom Luigi accidentally breaks the chewing bone of Francis, the owner’s pet dog. After initially fixing the leak, the brothers have an unscrupulous altercation with an angry Francis that ends up destroying the entire bathroom.
Growing up in the ’90s I loved playing Super Mario Bros. on my cousin’s Super Nintendo. It was a fun game that helped pass the time when I wasn’t doing any homework or playing with friends. I distinctly remember skipping school when I was in either the 1st or 2nd grade so that I could stay home and watch the live-action Super Mario Bros. movie on HBO. Needless to say, I loved that movie. It was very different from the game and explored the world in a dark and realistic way. The Mushroom Kingdom was a futuristic city ruled by humans that evolved from dinosaurs instead of primates, President Koopa is a slimy politician, Princess Daisy is an NYU archaeology student, Toad is a street guitarist, and Yoshi is a baby T-Rex. The main stars were Bob Hoskins who I really enjoyed in Who Framed Roger Rabbit and John Leguizamo who I loved in The Pest. They felt like the perfect Mario and Luigi to me. Directors Rocky Morton and Annabel Jankel even gave the duo the last name Mario which while hilarious also made perfect sense.
Every time I watched it I found myself entranced with the world and wanted to know more. The film even ended with the tease of a sequel that would never come. Sadly the critics did not think as I did and panned the movie. The backlash was so bad that Nintendo refused to license any sort of live-action movie based on their IP for decades. After the success of the live-action Sonic the Hedgehog and Detective Pikachu, Nintendo began to soften its stance and entered into a deal with Illumination for an animated Mario project. As a fan, I found myself excited once again to see what type of movie they would make. The first trailer showed promise, the animation quality looked great and when I finally sat down to watch the movie I realized it wasn’t made for me.
To start with the positives, the animation quality is stunning. Illumination is mainly known for the Despicable Me franchise, but this deal with Nintendo shows that they are willing to branch out. The design of all the characters is very faithful to the video games. The voice cast all do well at making their characters their own while still keeping them similar to the source material. Anya Taylor-Joy stands out as Princess Peach. Her role is practically swapped with Mario’s as she is not always a damsel in distress and can handle her own in a fight. There are tons of Easter eggs for fans of the franchise. The minor character Giuseppe looks exactly like Mario did in his first video game appearance and is voiced by Charles Martinet, who voices Mario and Luigi in the video games. Their old boss Spike is a deep cut as he only appeared in the 1984 Nintendo game Wrecking Crew. The origin of the brothers being from Brooklyn is pulled straight from the 1993 film.
This movie is definitely made for kids. Yes, it’s based on an old video game franchise that adults enjoyed, but most of the gags and jokes are aimed at children. The story moves at a quick pace and isn’t deep or nuanced. Once Mario and Luigi get transported to the Mushroom Kingdom and are separated the plot is pretty much reuniting them. That alone makes me wish that a studio like Pixar was given the chance to tackle this IP because their movies are layered in a way that all ages can enjoy them. The Nintendo universe has tons of lore that could’ve been infused into this story to make it easier to set up potential sequels and spin-offs. At this point, I don’t know how they are going to explain other human characters in the Mushroom Kingdom like Princess Daisy without retconning their backstory.
Overall the film accomplished what it wanted to do which is to appease children. The story isn’t deep or meaningful, but it is fun. I give The Super Mario Bros. Movie a Solid 5/10. With as much money as this movie is making I wouldn’t doubt that other Nintendo IPs such as The Legend of Zelda, Metroid, and Kid Icarus will be making the jump to the big screen sooner rather than later. And if we get lucky we may eventually get that Super Smash Bros. movie!