The Super Mario Bros. Movie (2023) Review

The Super Mario movie is the culmination of an incalculable amount of accumulated hours that so many of us have spent glued to a screen controlling a portly Italian plumber in a fever-dream world. Translating that to the screen, Nintendo employed Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic, the creators of “Teen Titans Go!”, to the directors’ chairs, along with Illumination Studios of "Minions" fame. Having such veterans making this movie, you could tell that Nintendo was covering their bases, ensuring that this film was not going to be a repeat of their live-action box-office failure, “Super Mario Bros.” (1993). Given the success that this movie is generating, it is possible that Nintendo might consider lending their other IPs to studios to make more movies. I would not be surprised if a “The Legend Of Zelda Movie” becomes a reality.

Unlike previous but recent video game/movie adaptations, like “Pokemon: Detective Pikachu” (2019) or “Sonic the Hedgehog” (2020), “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” completely embraces computer generated animation, rather than having the off-putting blend of reality with hyper-realistic cartoon creatures. The movie looks great, but the story is nothing to write home about, as was expected. People play Mario games not for their story, but for the imaginative journey they take you on. Even without a non-formulaic story, the Mario movie has so much washing over the audience. Pure stimulation and constant references to icons of the franchise come one after another, giving you no time to stop, which gets exhausting by the second act. There is little time to let the audience breathe. If the film slowed down a notch or two, allowing for emotional scenes to have their dramatic pauses or allowing characters to develop rather than having them standing on hot coals to progress the plot as fast as possible, it would be a far better film.

Another issue with the film is the untapped potential to explore the relationship between the two plumber brothers. The film starts off with letting us in on the relationship the brothers share, and seems to wish to build up a story where both Mario and Luigi go on an adventure, until Luigi is taken away for the majority of the picture. Dodging this plot to make it about saving Luigi failed to add a real story that this film could have greatly benefited from.

The voice acting was well-done. Many big names bring our beloved characters to life, although that is not to say that it is without controversy. Some people have taken to social media to boo at the choice to make Chris Pratt our Jumpman, as opposed to the official voice of Mario for the past 32 years, Charles Martinet. It would probably not work to have Charles Martinet’s high-pitched and energetic caricature voice for 92 minutes without annoying audiences. In any of his games, we never see Mario give a speech or anything other than enthusiastic noises. All of a sudden making Mario’s silly Italian voice speak full sentences with serious emotion would not go over well. Allowing for a different recognizable voice to portray Mario seems like a reasonable change for Nintendo, and one that avoided more opposition from audiences than it has generated on social media. At no time in this film should the audience be annoyed by Chris Pratt’s Mario voice, nor any voice for that matter. Charlie Day as Luigi, Jack Black (who is criminally underused) as Bowser and Seth Rogan as Donkey Kong are most memorable in the movie, with most other voice actors being replaceable with other names without changing much of the movie.

Critics have had a field day ripping this film a new one, although I cannot possibly see what one gets from dogging films not made for their high brows. Despite what they say, “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” is not rotten. It’s for children who like Mario and adults who were raised on Nintendo, and if one turns off the grumpy fun-hating buzzkills, they might be able to walk out of the theatre skipping.