“The Super Mario Bros. Movie” debuted at theaters across the globe on April 5, 2023 (rated PG). Previous attempts to bring the italian brothers to the big screen managed to mostly end in flops, but Illumination’s latest go at the pipes crushed the box office opening weekend, garnering $876.4 million worldwide.
The animated cinematic adventure features a down on their luck Mario (Chris Pratt) and Luigi (Charlie Day) as they try to start their own plumbing business in Brooklyn, New York. However, their attempt at making a name for themselves leads them to a mysterious pipe in the lower sewers of the city. Before they know it, they are magically sucked into the world of the mushroom kingdom to stop Bowser (Jack Black) and his conquest of the realm.
The animation in this movie was honestly incredible. The detail on Mario and Luigi was a level of depth that was not expected, but wholeheartedly accepted. The animation flows so smoothly, even with the incredible level of detail and depth that the world portrays. The games have always been in a very cartoony aesthetic that doesn’t require or call for a grand level of detail, but the movie went ahead and fleshed out the cutesy nature of the more recent games.
The sheer volume of Easter eggs and references to earlier and later Mario games was astounding. Around every corner, a secret reference could be spotted, inviting the viewer to pay a little more attention to the action on screen than they likely would normally. However, the rapid fire Easter eggs and references felt very forced and almost like a stand-in for any sense of actual plot.
The plot of the film was all over the place. Some plot beats didn’t seem fully fleshed out and felt very rushed. Largely, for example, is how Princess Peach (Anya Taylor-Joy) invites Mario along almost instantly after meeting. There didn’t seem to be a good character motive for Peach to assist Mario, and it didn’t feel fluid at all.
Luigi is present for a decent amount in the first act of the film, but when he enters the Mushroom Kingdom in the second act, his character is taken out of the plot almost entirely. When the last act came around, Luigi’s reintroduction and very brief character arc felt very unnatural and only there because it had to be.
The pacing of the movie also felt very quick. The movie moved (no pun intended) at a lightning pace. The reason is likely so they could shoehorn in more references to give a greater incentive to come see the movie. There doesn’t seem to be an emotional understory that most children's films contain to portray a deeper meaning and lesson for younger audiences, but “The Super Mario Bros. Film” didn’t seem to have a good message behind it, or even a message at all.
The only semblance of meaning came from a brief scene between Mario and Donkey Kong (Seth Rogen) where they share a brief conversation about the situations with their parents' approval. However, this theme didn’t feel fleshed out at all and felt very forced.
Another example is when Luigi is reintroduced later in the film, cluing Mario into the fact that he can’t do it without Luigi, but like the previous issue with Donkey Kong, it didn’t feel natural or explored well.
There were many humorous points in the film, largely thanks to Jack Black’s performance of Bowser. His performance is one of the few saving graces of the film and felt like a nice relief from the hyperactive plot. Even then, Bowser felt underutilized in the movie. Yes, he had his scenes in between, but as the film’s main antagonist, he didn’t feel very threatening. It is possible for a children's movie antagonist to be simultaneously threatening and humorous — King Candy from Wreck-It Ralph, for example. Bowser’s final attack on the Brothers felt like it was there only because it had to be, since he is largely inactive for most of the movie.
A busy plot, a rapid fire pace, and underdeveloped themes all culminate in the box office Koopa smasher that is “The Super Mario Bros. Movie.” Is this film worth a rewatch? Honestly, yes, it was a feast for the eyes and doesn’t demand too much attention. Who is this movie perfect for? Super Mario Brothers fans anywhere and everywhere, young and old. “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” earns a stark 3.5 out of 10.
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