The Super Mario Bros. Movie review: A fun time for fungi

The Super Mario Bros. Movie review: A fun time for fungi
Images via Illumination Entertainment

Written by 

Tom Chapman

Published 

6th Apr 2023 17:07

Easter is just around the corner, but for those jumping down the warp pipe for Illumination Entertainment's The Super Mario Bros. Movie, the Easter egg hunt is starting early. When you hear "Mario movie," chances are you'll think of the Bob Hoskins-led disaster from 1993, but, not for long.

In an era where video game adaptations continue to defy expectations that they're "cursed," The Super Mario Bros. Movie does exactly what it says on the tin - a colourful trip down a Rainbow Road of nostalgia for Nintendo's poster boy.

Hearing voices

Mario and Luigi Super Mario Bros. Movie
Click to enlarge

Aesthetically, The Super Mario Bros. Movie pulls gaming fans in and makes them feel like they're in a new-gen Nintendo game. Cleverly flipping between side-scrolling levels and backdrops that are full to bursting with gaming winks, it gives us high hopes for whatever comes after Super Mario Odyssey.

Addressing the elephant in the Mushroom Kingdom, it would be impossible to talk about The Super Mario Bros. Movie without discussing Chris Pratt's accent. You'll be pleased to hear the script gets the dodgy Italian stereotypes out of the way early, although we hear "mama mia" too many times for our liking later on.

Critics question why the legendary Charles Martinet didn't get to reprise his role as the portly plumber from the games. As one of Hollywood's A-listers, picking the Jurassic World and the Guardians of the Galaxy star was a no-brainer that puts financials over the nostalgia of Martinet.

Thankfully, Martinet lends his vocals to an array of cameo characters, while it's easy to see why Illumination went with the selling power of Pratt. In the end, Pratt's vocals are arguably the weakest of the ensemble, and you could've cast literally anyone in the role - making it something of a non-issue.

Turtle power

Jack Black Bowser Super Mario Bros Movie
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In terms of star performances, it's easy to award Jack Black's Boswer the Super Star. The tyrannical turtle chews the script with ease, leaning into Black's Tenacious D days with Bowser being a heavy metal fanatic. Speaking of musical numbers, Black's hint that Mario would be something of a musical pays off in the best way.

Importantly, Bowser is a genuinely imposing villain rather than Jim Carrey's sometimes slapstick Doctor Robotnik in The Sonic the Hedgehog movies. There's even something of a #MeToo moment when Boswer's Koopas question his next movies if Princess Peach refuses to marry him.

Anya Taylor-Joy encompasses everything Nintendo has done with recently revamping Peach from a damsel in distress into a fearsome leader of the Mushroom Kingdom. Keegan-Michael Key's Toad is just the right side of annoying, and Charlie Day's quivering Luigi is the perfect partner in crime for Pratt's lead.

With Peach avoiding kidnap this time around, The Super Mario Bros. Movie spins the franchise's tired trope on its head. Mario goes to rescue his brother, which gives the story a real heart. The recurring theme of "Nothing can hurt us as long as we're together" is amped up by a tear-jerking cameo of Baby Mario and Baby Luigi.

King of the Kongs

Seth Rogen Donkey Kong Super Mario Bros. Movie
Click to enlarge

As for those all-important Easter eggs, The Super Mario Bros. movie is a smorgasbord for the senses. From throwbacks to Mario's debut as Jump Man to the retro Duck Hunt game, there's a sadistic Lumalee stealing the show, and a Ludwig von Koopa piano. The most obscure is a wink to blowing in your Nintendo cartridges to get them to work. 

It's easy to see where we're going next, and even if we hadn't heard about a potential Donkey Kong spin-off for Seth Rogen, the grumpy gorilla pitches himself as the most marketable member of the cast. A shame that Fred Armisen's Cranky Kong is one of the weaker members, and we don't get nearly enough Diddy Kong.

Speaking of spin-offs, a Luigi's Mansion movie is surely creaking from the crypt. Mario's younger brother finds a heroic streak by the time the credits roll, and with his newfound courage, snooping out spooks is an easy move. As for a certain post-credit scene, it's definitely setting up a fan-favourite arrival in the inevitable sequel

The verdict

Charlie Day Luigi Super Mario Bros. Movie
Click to enlarge

More than just building worlds and being a cheap cash-in on one of the biggest video characters of all time, The Super Mario Bros. Movie does justice to the overall-wearing hero and his brother, while importantly restoring their reputation following 1993's outing.

It's true that not much happens - and you're effectively playing any old Mario game - but let's be honest that the franchise isn't exactly known for deviating from a formula that's seen it top charts for the past 38 years. From a studio that gave us MinionsThe Super Mario Bros. Movie is far less annoying than you might expect. 

Boasting a well-cast crop of characters and some glossy visuals, we're excited to see this world expand. It's just a shame that the lead is largely outshone by his supporting cast. While The Super Mario Bros. Movie has the star power to sit with the best video game adaptations of all time, it doesn't quite collect all eight red coins. 

Cinematic Universes are all the rage these days, and even though we don't know if we'd necessarily be sitting down for a Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker spin-off, a Mario sequel has the potential to power up the franchise. As for it getting four out of five, we knocked off a star because there aren't nearly enough Boos in this one. 

Tom Chapman
About the author
Tom Chapman
Tom is Trending News Editor at GGRecon, with an NCTJ qualification in Broadcast Journalism and over seven years of experience writing about film, gaming, and television. With bylines at IGN, Digital Spy, Den of Geek, and more, Tom’s love of horror means he's well-versed in all things Resident Evil, with aspirations to be the next Chris Redfield.
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