‘The Super Mario Bros. Movie’: My Childhood Dream Come True

Photo Courtesy of Universal Pictures

Photo Courtesy of Universal Pictures

I want to preface this by saying how I am extremely biased here. If you aren’t a fan of the “Super Mario” franchise or are over the age of 10, this movie is not anything special. Since I am a fan though, I will be talking about this movie through that lens. Please be aware that you may not agree if you have not been deeply involved in the franchise, like me. Thank you for understanding, and I hope you enjoy the review!

Who hasn’t heard of Mario? He’s the hero of the Mushroom Kingdom, saving Princess Peach over and over again from the clutches of the evil King Bowser. Donning his recognizable blue overalls and red hat, it’s hard to find someone who hasn’t heard of him. When “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” was announced, I was skeptical. 

I knew that it would make a boatload of money at the box office, but everything else about it sounded fishy. Being developed by Illumination and replacing the video game voice actors with Hollywood stars didn’t sit right with me. I mean, Chris Pratt voicing Mario? I thought that the Nintendo executives had lost their minds! I was nervous leading up to seeing the film, and my heart was beating out of my chest as the theater lights dimmed. Once the movie began, however, a smile remained on my face for the next hour and a half. 

I loved every second of this movie. This movie was made for Mario fans, by Mario fans. Because of that, the amount of callbacks in the film is astounding. From musical references to character cameos, this movie has it all. I’ve been playing Mario games almost my entire life, so seeing my childhood portrayed on the silver screen was mind-blowing. Even the background music that usually goes unnoticed contained callbacks to previous songs that I used to listen to all the time. The directors did an excellent job of sticking to the source material.

There was a lot of discourse surrounding this movie, especially with the voice cast. I mentioned that Chris Pratt voiced Mario, but there were even more celebrities that voiced the characters. Charlie Day voiced Luigi, and even Seth Rogan voiced a character in Donkey Kong. I am happy to say that each actor did an exceptional job. Playing characters as iconic as these are is undoubtedly a unique challenge. Since so many people are familiar with the franchise, it’s hard to voice these characters in a way that honors their legacy. Each actor understood that and brought something new to the table while also respecting the character’s origins. 

Yes, Chris Pratt was a good Mario. The internet owes him an apology for making fun of him when he was announced to play that character. One actor I especially loved was Jack Black’s Bowser. He did an outstanding job and honestly carried the scenes he was in. He also wrote an original song for the film, which is unironically amazing. 

The animation in this movie looks really good. The character designs are a bit different than you might remember from the games, but it’s as if they look completely dissimilar. Illumination is a studio that I tend to be wary of. I think that their only good movie is “Despicable Me,” with their other movies either mediocre or just plain bad. The studio could’ve very easily taken the “Super Mario” property and twisted it into one of their own abominations. Thankfully, that isn’t the case here. 

Shigeru Miyamoto, the creator of Mario, was heavily involved in the production of this film. He made sure to keep the movie faithful to its roots. While that is undoubtedly a good thing, it also means that there are some aspects that don’t transfer over as well. The “Super Mario” franchise has never been known for telling deep and complex narratives, and that tends to show.

Narratively speaking, the film is okay at best. There isn’t a lot of time to get acquainted with the characters, and scenes move around very quickly. Additionally, the writing itself is not very exciting. It’s very basic, and it causes many scenes to feel like they’re contributing the bare minimum to the plot…

But that’s okay.

I mentioned earlier that I’m a fan of this franchise, so the lack of a great narrative doesn’t bother me. That being said, movies tend to be built on narratives, and having a weak narrative shows. That is a valid aspect to point out, and I can’t really refute it. Although you were never supposed to go into this movie for the plot, you were supposed to go into it for the references and fun encounters with these timeless characters on the silver screen. I genuinely cannot fathom how some critics (granted, only a few) are grading the movie solely on the lack of narrative depth. Do they even know how to turn off their brains and have fun, or are they too busy hating everything that isn’t a Marvel movie?

I don’t want it to seem like I’m giving this movie a pass because I loved every other aspect. The lack of a strong narrative shows, and it is a little disappointing. However, I can’t ignore the critics who only look at the plot and nothing else. There’s so much fun packed into this movie that it isn’t completely held back because of it. Again, I’m saying this from the perspective of a fan. 

Someone who doesn’t encounter the franchise regularly and is a full-grown adult won’t agree. They’ll have fun with the vibrant colors, licensed music, and minimal references. Other than that, though, there isn’t enough substance here to support it being a masterpiece of cinema. For the average “Super Mario” fan, however, the movie is nothing short of eye candy from start to finish.

Score for a non-Mario fan: 5/10

Score for a Mario fan: 9.5/10