It’s hard to begin a review of The Super Mario Bros. Movie without looking back at the original film adaptation of the beloved Nintendo franchise: 1993’s Super Mario Bros.
The live-action adaptation had Bob Hoskins as Mario, John Leguizamo as Luigi and Dennis Hopper as King Koopa. The movie was, well, interesting. It had the characters I knew but I couldn’t recognize the world they were in. In 1993, the newest Mario game was the 2D Super Mario World on Super Nintendo and the depth of the Mario world was only beginning to take shape. Creative license took hold and… the movie fell flat for many fans (although, to be honest, I like it for what it is).
That said, a franchise as big as Super Mario Bros. – for heaven’s sake Mario was more familiar than Mickey in the 1990s. The film deserved so much more.
I’m here to tell you they delivered. But let’s get a couple of things straight off the top.
Here’s what’s a little meh about The Super Mario Bros Movie
No, the script is not groundbreaking, but it remains mostly true to the lore. Mario and Luigi are indeed plumbers who are struggling to get by. They try to save Brooklyn from a water main break and end up falling into the city’s nether regions. The boys get sucked into a warp pipe, get split off, and now Mario has to save his brother from peril. No Oscars will be won for scriptwriting. But really, that’s not what anyone is going to this movie for.
The next thing: Chris Pratt’s Mario. The internet was down his throat from the first syllable he uttered as the short Italian plumber. (Not nearly as bad as the internet reacted to the first glimpses of Sonic The Hedgehog). Well… it’s about what you expect it to be. The rare utterances you hear of Mario in the games are so fresh-off-the-boat Italian that you feel like anything less would be weird. Chris Pratt’s Italian is more Olive Garden. It’s a tiny letdown for the first few minutes but truthfully, you won’t end up caring. I’d rather him be Italianish than a bad rendition of Guido Sarducci.
Here are the “Stars” of the flick…
Let’s get into the good stuff, and there is a lot. After the screening, reviewers give a brief comment on their thoughts. When I said this, all the reviewers around me laughed because it was right on the nose. This is “Nintendo pornography.”
If you grew up with these games. If you chose SNES over Genesis, if you bought a freakin’ WiiU, if you love everything that is the Mario franchise, then dammit you’re gonna love this. It feels like you’re in the most beautiful visual representation of a Super Mario game that has ever been. Unfortunately, Nintendo keeps putting their incredible IP on graphically underpowered systems – but that’s besides the point.
Luigi’s ringtone near the movie’s start is, legit, the GameCube intro. It’s meta. Everything is meta. Look close enough and you’ll see nods and homages to every bit of the Mario work from Jump Man (the original name for the character) to Punch Out (he was the ref) and more. Every corner of the Mario world seems to be touched on… every corner but Yoshi. (But… just stay through the credits. You’ll see why.)
The Other Stars
There are two massive stars in the cast. Jack Black’s Bowser brought equal parts seriousness and levity. He totally did it justice even though at parts you felt as though the King of the Koopas was about to break into Tenacious D’s “Tribute.”
The other star? Seth Rogan as Donkey Kong. There is one part of the movie that, I believe in my heart, was not scripted. But they caught it in the recording and used it and the theater lit up. You’ll hear it’s Seth from the first moment, and you’ll definitely think Donkey Kong is a stoner, but he did a fantastic job.
Peach is an absolute badass. Toad is adorable. Driving on Rainbow Road will give you goosebumps.
The music? Wow. Bryan Tyler (known for scoring productions like Yellowstone) did an outstanding job as the conductor of an incredibly rich orchestra which really brought the songs of Mario to life. I genuinely cannot wait to jam out to the soundtrack.
They don’t like us sharing too many plot lines or details but what I can tell you is this: the kids will love it. Adults will at the very least get a decent chuckle out of it. It’s not setting the world on fire scriptwise, but the world is already on fire. The Super Mario Bros Movie is approximately 90 minutes of dumb fun escapism that will have you smiling as you leave the theater.
Oh, and Mario hates mushrooms. Who knew?