Mario Movie Review: Super or Sucky?


Universal Pictures

Promotional poster for the Universal Pictures film “The Super Mario Bros. Movie”

Will Hagaman, Editor in Chief

Mario, the mustachioed Italian plumber, finally has a new film. But is it worth a watch?

Beginning with the setting, The Super Mario Bros. Movie felt alive and a direct reflection of the game world. As a child, I would often find myself enveloped in Mario games, ranging from Super Mario Galaxy to Mario Kart 7, and nearly every game in between. The design of the Mushroom Kingdom in the opening minutes of the movie, to Bowser’s dark kingdom all felt like they were perfectly and exactly replicated from the game universe and put onto film.

The directors and writers had an exceedingly difficult challenge presented: stay loyal to the source material while incorporating as much of it as possible to create an enjoyable cinematic experience. And I would say they meshed all the different Mario games together in such a way that it was nearly a perfect “TL:DR” of the Mario universe.

I may not have been the biggest Mario fanatic as a child, or a scholar on Mario lore, but throughout the film I was happy to see various callbacks to different properties in the Mario universe. One of these callbacks that excited me the most was the addition of Rainbow Road, a map in Mario Kart that was the bane of my existence for a full summer.

The movie was animated, and I believe this to be the best choice not only to represent the story told, but also because the animation was without a doubt the best visuals I have ever seen in an animated film, and a must-see for fans of detailed and thoughtful animation.

The colors of the animation were vibrant, virtually jumping off the screen, the characters moved both gracefully and gamey as their source material, and the water animation flowed nearly identical to that of real water.

That being said, the animation and setting didn’t make up for the plot, which can arguably be described as predictable and underwhelming. The brothers Mario (Chris Pratt) and Luigi (Charlie Day) are transported to the world of the Mushroom Kingdom where after a separation, Mario has to both defeat the dreaded King Bowser (Jack Black) to save the land and rescue Luigi. It was definitely a “kids” movie plot, with pacing and dialogue to match, but it still had its moments.

I could not have dreamt of better casting with the voice acting of the characters. I was, admittedly, very worried when the trailer was first released and Chris Pratt was voicing Mario, but I was happily surprised that he did wonders when voicing him in the film. With no other apt description, the voice of Chris Pratt created a much more energized and adventurous Mario, which matched the plot of the hero that “isn’t in Kansas anymore.”

He may not have stuck to the Italian accent, but that may have been for the best. Like a lot of his other roles I was unable to separate Chris Pratt from the character he was portraying, and my brain screamed “Chris Pratt” throughout the film instead of “Mario,” but that is unavoidable when casting voice actors for famous characters.

Jack Black as the voice of King Bowser, not only did the voice of Jack Black perfectly match the portrayal of Bowser, but it also provided a welcome sense of humor to the film. Jack Black exudes a chaotically-elegant energy in all of his roles, and that energy is not excluded in his portrayal of Bowser. No scene with him was dull, and I believe that he is the true star of the film.

The soundtrack, which I believe in many cases can make or break a film, was also excellently curated. Seeded throughout the film were either classic Mario soundtracks, or remixes of those tracks, which added to the film’s setting while also adding a fresh coat of paint to the iconic tunes. And it would be shameful for me not to include the magnum opus of the musical collection, the charmingly catchy “Peaches” performed by Jack Black.

The film refreshingly did not purposefully extend its runtime to the detriment of the story, which I enjoy as many modern films have started to become longer and longer for the sake of runtime while sacrificing a perfectly tempoed plot. The movie did not feel too short nor too long, and was just the right amount of time to finish its story.

If you were expecting a plot-rich and groundbreaking work of cinematic genius, you will be thoroughly disappointed. Just as the critics on Rotten Tomatoes rate the movie a 5.6 out of 10.

However, if you want an entertaining, funny, and nostalgia-filled romp through memory lane, this is the film for you. It is no work of art, but nostalgia and charm makes up for that over the course of the film.

I didn’t feel cheated out of my time when watching this movie, nor exhilarated, but it was definitely what I expected from a Mario movie. Overall, I enjoyed my time watching it, and would rate it a solid 7/10.