The Super Mario Bros. Movie

The Tremendous Mario Bros. Film

This movie from Illumination Studios is not only by far my favorite, but it also ranks far above average for a video game adaptation. This is mostly due to the creative team’s respect for the original work; it’s the kind of movie that die-hard Nintendo fans might watch repeatedly and yet pick up on fresh elements they would not have seen before. The allusions can include cameos by voice actors as well as well-known sound effects and place names. Even the soundtrack features lovely reinterpretations of well-known themes that may be found throughout the entire franchise.

At first, I must say, I was concerned that was all the movie would be. But thankfully, The Super Mario Bros. Movie has a good, if predictable, plot that holds everything together. Yes, it is an isekai story, and as a result, the movie pretty much conforms to your expectations in that regard. The Mario brothers are down on their luck in the real world, but they start to gain new confidence and a sense of purpose in this new realm, which ultimately helps them become heroes. The charm, sporadic humor, and sincere character relationships make up for the movie’s lack of novelty.

Given that the majority of these characters lacked personality in the original games, that last statement shocked me. Toad is sincere almost to a fault, Donkey Kong is a showboating jerk, Mario is straightforward and keeps trying, Bowser is narcissistic to the point of insanity, and Donkey Kong is a bit of a dick. These characters’ traits not only fit with the storyline of the movie, but I also didn’t think they were betraying what Mario fans thought of them. That might be as a result of the creative team making use of as many resources as they could to fill in the spaces. Princess Peach’s persona appears to have been influenced by her depictions in the Nintendo Power comics (remember those? ), which actually show her as a tough-minded leader type.

These personalities complement one other to produce enjoyable conversations that don’t feel forced. I even bought the chemistry between Mario and Peach (which is amusing because I don’t believe the film pushed too hard to really sell any romance between them), as well as the true sibling bond between Mario and Luigi and the humorous rivalry between Mario and Donkey Kong. Even Bowser’s justification for picking on Mario in particular was amusing and absurdly straightforward while being entirely true to his persona.

The amazing animation and voice acting carried a lot of this. The animation in Illumination does a superb job of using slight squash and stretch to emphasize facial expressions without having the characters deviate from the norm. While the character designs are undoubtedly more modern than what we are used to, everyone still has a lot of distinguishing characteristics and bodily measurements that are consistent with how they are normally portrayed in other media. Putting aside my earlier dissatisfaction with celebrity casting in voice acting, I actually found much of what I heard to be enjoyable. Yes, Chris Pratt also gave the impression that he was making an effort, both with his accent and his ability to play off of others. The two actors who stood out the most were unquestionably Charlie Day as Luigi and Jack Black as Bowser, who at points virtually blew their voices out with how aggressively they were yelling or growling. As far as the production quality of this movie is concerned, I have no issues.

However, I do have two glaring complaints. The fact that Mario and Luigi are apart for the duration of the film detracts from the fraternal bond that serves as the movie’s emotional center despite the fact that it is a very strong relationship hook. Luigi really has a relatively little role in the movie as a whole and is absent for more than two-thirds of it. You might say that Super Mario Bros. and the sibling connection bookend the movie, so even if the two weren’t connected at the hip, there could have been a better method to incorporate the relationship throughout.

The second issue I have is also one I have with most Illumination films: they don’t know when to pause and be quiet. Although the lightning-fast tempo of this movie initially kept things interesting, I can only recall one or two instances in which two characters actually sat down and thought about what was happening throughout the whole movie. There were instances when it appeared as though the movie was preparing reflective moments only to cut them short in order to get to the next story element. The running time of this movie is about 92 minutes, and I can’t help but think that this is one of the few times where 10 to 20 more minutes would have allowed us to appreciate everything much more. Even though this is a movie mostly targeted at children, I don’t think kids will necessarily have an issue with it in the end. However, for me, everything simply sounds like noise.

Is this film flawless or the return of Christ? No. Is it a good film that, in my opinion, honors the Super Mario Bros. franchise? Yes, I believe so. Even with all the humor, it’s still disappointing that it took this long for us to see a Mario movie that was genuinely good, but given how much history and respect this movie has for its source material, perhaps it’s best that it took so long. It’s difficult to say whether or not we would have received a potentially superior film in the alternative, but technically speaking, The Super Mario Bros. Movie upholds the history of steadily improving and faithful adaptations of well-known video game series. Even though I have my complaints, I do hope that this movie is a hit and that moving forward we will get to see more passionate performances on the big screen. Just don’t make me wait 30 years for a Metroid Prime movie or a Zelda TV series, Nintendo!

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