REVIEW – “The Super Mario Bros. Movie”

The curse of the video game movie is one of the most notorious, consistencies in Hollywood; they are so reliably mediocre and, usually, fundamentally miss the entire point of what made these franchises popular in the first place. But in 2020, a bit of a shift in the tide happened when the Sonic the Hedgehog movie was released in theaters – Sonic is by no means an amazing film, but it proved with both solid reception and box office performance that if you make a reliable and entertaining video game adaptation that understands the material, then fans will turn up to support the efforts. With these ideals in mind, in comes The Super Mario Bros. Movie, a film that feels that it was made exactly for the fans of the video games and source material BY fans of the video games and source material; a film so completely uncynical and full of nothing but pure love for what it’s adapting that one could call it the purest, most straight-forward video game adaptation of all-time.

The film follows Mario (Chris Pratt) and Luigi (Charlie Day) as they try to become successful plummers in New York City, but are currently down on their luck when it comes to getting their business off the ground. However, after trying to repair a pipe in the New York sewers, Mario and Luigi get sucked into a tube that separates them into different worlds. This leaves Mario to try and find his brother with the help of characters such as Princess Peach (Anya Taylor-Joy) and Toad (Keegan-Michael key), as well as trying to stop Bowser (Jack Black, who may just be the MVP of the film due to the sheer commitment to his vocal performance and how much fun he’s clearly having) from taking over all the kingdoms across the galaxy.

The world of The Super Mario Bros. is so vast that it almost feels unreal that this is the first attempt at revamping the franchise since the 1993 disaster of the same name. From the moment this film begins, it’s apparent that there is so much material to mine from when it comes to the various different worlds and characters that can appear. And despite its modest 90-minute running time, The Super Mario Bros. Movie feels like a film that takes full-advantage of everything in its arsenal – like the crew knew they had one shot to make a Super Mario Bros. movie and knew that they had to throw everything they wanted to do at the wall and hope it stuck. These various ideas build up to some really solid set-pieces, namely a really excellent sequence with the Kongs as Mario faces off against Donkey Kong (Seth Rogen, who is having a ton of fun here), as well as a really impressive and insanely fun set-piece on Rainbow Road that will have any fans of Mario Kart absolutely delighted.

It’s also worth noting here that the animation is fairly excellent and absolutely stunning at several different points. Illumination films can sometimes be hit or miss with both their quality and style of animation, but this is leagues above anything they’ve done in the past due to the sheer detail and intricate design put into each and every sequence this film has to offer. Every character is so perfectly rendered and detailed to such an insane degree, as well as how elaborate and vast the different kingdoms and lands are. This leaves for a film that is as visually ravishing and exciting as anything you’d see in most Mario games. This is easily the best work that Illumination has ever put out in terms of style and design, and it’s not even close.

There are certainly quite a few moments in The Super Mario Bros. Movie where I felt as if the story was moving way too fast for its own good and that I wish it took the time to breathe instead of jumping from set piece to set piece and character to character, but it’s also hard to not appreciate how sporadic and to-the-point this film is; it’s clearly a film that knows exactly what it’s target audience wants from a Mario movie – and it gives it to them tenfold. It’s easy to be cynical about a film like this, but ultimately the film completely coasts off the charm of its pure love for the characters and the world in-which they are able to play in. It’s a blast!


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