I’m not a gamer. I’ve never been able to get the hang of most games – ask my boyfriend – and I don’t know much about many video game characters. But like most Zillenials…I know the basics about Mario, of Super Mario Bros. fame…And luckily, that’s all you really need to know to watch The Super Mario Bros. Movie.
Unfortunately, you won’t come out knowing anything else about it. As my boyfriend explained, Nintendo tends to be very protective of its properties, especially Mario Bros. So, they were never going to take many if any risks with the film…The biggest risk this movie took was possibly the choice of Illumination as the production studio…
Of the big three, Illumination probably takes the fewest risks. It doesn’t have the best reputation among animation fans. But ironically, that also made it the perfect studio to produce one of the decade’s blandest, most uninteresting, and most predictable animated movies.
Jack Black, as Bowser, is the only exception to this criticism. He is easily the best part of the movie. And Peach was a goddamn fool for choosing Mario over him.
Mario and his little brother Luigi work as plumbers in Brooklyn, who one day find themselves in another world. While Mario lands in the Mushroom Kingdom, ruled by Princess Peach, Luigi lands in the Dark Land where he is taken prisoner by the evil King Bowser.
Bowser intends to marry Peach and rule the world with his newly acquired Super Star. Mario and Peach must team up with the powerful Kong family to stop Bowser and save the world…
I mean…what else did you expect?
It’s nice that Peach isn’t the damsel in distress. But like…she’s still a one-dimensional character. Along with every other character in the film. I get that they’re video game characters, who never had much of a story or personality in the first place – but isn’t the point of the movie to expand on that?
All we know about Mario is that he cares deeply for his brother and he hates mushrooms. At the film’s end, nothing about his personality or character has changed except he dislikes mushrooms a little bit less. At no point is he asked to sacrifice anything or change his views. He just becomes stronger.
And the same goes for the other characters.
Sure, Bowser is a pretty classic villain and the heroes need to stop him – but still…he’s just evil, in a way that doesn’t force the heroes to confront any ideals they held…But at the same time, Bowser is easily the best part of the movie.
Chris Pratt was….Chris Pratt. His voice acting didn’t bring Mario to life or make him stand out. He was fine as Emmett in The Lego Movie but that’s mainly because the people making the movie, the writers and producers actually seemed to give a shit about the movie being good. But Jack Black put his whole self into his voice acting.
The song “Peaches” may not be the most complex song, but it’s a bop and the fact that Jack Black took it seriously makes it one of the best parts of the movie.
The animation is fine. Nothing special. It’s a traditional CG animation style, which works. Everything looks like it’s supposed to. But after such amazing films with fascinating animation styles like Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, Marcel the Shell With Shoes On, Pinocchio and Spider-Man: Into the SpiderVerse — Mario’s style is kind of…boring?
Everything about the movie is safe and inoffensive.
It’s Mario. They can afford to take risks with a name that big – because people will see it based on brand recognition. Yet, they made the most by-the-books kid’s movie ever. Sure, there are a lot of little Easter eggs and references but that’s it.
It’s exactly my problem with so many of these animated movies based on brands; The Lego Movie did it well and then it seemed every company tried to follow without understanding what made the movie good.
And video game adaptations can work: I enjoyed Detective Pikachu and both Sonic the Hedgehog movies. And those weren’t necessarily the greatest films of all time, but at least the people involved seemed to be having a good time making it – especially the actors. In The Super Mario Bros. Movie, it just felt like most of the voice actors were just there for the paycheck.
At least the kids in the theater seemed to enjoy the movie.
But I swear if this movie gets nominated for an Oscar after actually having a decent line-up for Best Animated Feature last year…I’m gonna lose it.
And that’s the scoop.
Grade: C –
Release Year: 2023
Length: 92 minutes
Producers: Chris Meledandri, Shigeru Miyamoto
Directors: Aaron Horvath, Michael Jelenic
Writer: Matthew Fogel
Voice Actors: Chris Pratt, Anya Taylor-Joy , Charlie Day, Jack Black, Keegan-Michael Key, Seth Rogen, Fred Armisen