THE SUPER MARIO BROS. MOVIE -- Fans of the Game and Plenty of Others Will Enjoy This Nostalgic Journey
Review by Dan Skip Allen
One of the most divisive genres in film and television has been the video game genre. Street Fighter, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, and The Last of Us are among the most successful in this genre. However, not so acclaimed was Super Mario Bros. from 1993, starring the late Bob Hoskins as Mario and John Leguizamo as his brother Luigi. It wasn't anything like the popular game from Nintendo. You can't say that about the new film from Universal and Illumination, though. The Super Mario Bros. Movie is a straight trip down memory lane for those who played this game as kids.
Mario (voiced by Chris Pratt) and Luigi (voiced by Charlie Day) are two plumbers from Brooklyn. They have made a commercial advertising their business. In the commercial, they have a flare for the comedy using traditional Italian or Sicilian voices. These aren't their real voices, though. They get made fun of by their father and an old associate. They still want to prove they are good plumbers, though, and go to help fix a water main leak. While there under the streets of Brooklyn, they get sucked into a pipe and sent to a whole new world. Mario lands in a beautiful mushroom land ruled by Princess Peach (voiced by Anya Taylor Joy), while Luigi lands in a dark land ruled by the king of the Koopas, Bowser (voiced by Jack Black). They have to fight to find and get back to one another, and they encounter some familiar faces along the way.
First things first, this is a much better adaptation of the Nintendo video game than the 1993 film. With Illumination Media behind it, you know the animation will be gorgeous, and it is. Once the characters get to various lands, the animation just jumps off the screen. Additionally, despite the vitriol about Chris Pratt voicing Mario, he and the rest of the cast are great as all the characters from the games. Fans of the game from the eighties and beyond will love it, and those who are just seeing the movie will enjoy it all the same. It's a fun, action-packed animated film with a lot of heart and brings the nostalgia factor.
With all the positives out of the way, I would be remiss if I didn't bring up a few negatives. One of them is that there is sometimes a shallow depth of field with the animation. While the foreground stuff is fine, the backgrounds can be a bit blurry. With Illumination being such an acclaimed studio, this is a surprise to me. Maybe in 3D, this will be worked out, but in a normal cinema, I had an issue with it. There was also a problem with voice modulation with one of the main characters in the film. If you know Jack Black, you know the specific intonations of his voice. His voice was changed to sound more menacing. I understand the reasons behind this. It just threw me aback when I heard it the first time. Still, those are minor quibbles in an otherwise fantastic film.
(from left) Toad (Keegan-Michael Key), Mario (Chris Pratt), Donkey Kong (Seth Rogen) and Princess Peach (Anya Taylor-Joy) in Nintendo and Illumination’s The Super Mario Bros. Movie, directed by Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic. Photo Credit: Nintendo; Illumination Entertainment & Universal Pictures.
As a kid, one of the only games I was half decent at was Super Mario Bros. I just caught on to it more than other games. The sound effects and the gameplay mode were more up my alley. So when I saw that the film used a lot of these sound effects as part of the score and gameplay aspects as part of the movie, I was delighted. It took me back to my childhood in the ‘80s, when I played this game with my brothers. Video game movies featuring Nintendo and their properties have been on a hot streak lately with Tetris from Apple TV+ and now The Super Mario Bros. Movie. What's next? Mike Tyson's Punch-Out?
Without giving too much away, the film goes to various lands, and that helps you expand on what would have been a pretty basic concept. The writer Matthew Fogel incorporates various elements of future games and other characters from different games in the movie. Adding these other parts of the Mario lore into the film added more enjoyable elements. These made the film that much better. There are also a lot of easter eggs for those with a keen eye. If this movie is successful, there will probably be a sequel. I have no doubt that will happen eventually. If there is a sequel, Illumination and Universal Pictures should bring back the same directors Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic, who seems to have a pretty good grasp of this material.
The Super Mario Bros. Movie is a fun nostalgic thrill ride for all those who enjoyed these games as a child or later in life. The writer and directors clearly show they love this material. Illumination always kills the animation. It is gorgeous to behold. The voice talent, despite the vitriol, is quite good in all the various times. I had a blast with this film, and I'm sure many others around the world will. It's miles ahead of the last film based on this source material, and once again brings the video game genre another winner in my book.
The Super Mario Bros. Movie hits theaters on April 5.