Super Mario Bros Movie review – Warp Whistle your way to cinemas
11th April 2023

The Super Mario Bros. Movie teased in final trailer

The Super Mario Bros Movie has an impossible task: create a coherent, fun, marketable narrative that’ll have cinemagoers crying out for more while leaving Nintendo lovers satisfied. Unlike Mario himself, it’s a tall order. But Illumination Studios must have grabbed a P-Wing, because somehow, some way, the picture manages to not only make sense, but also come off as extremely enjoyable, memorable, and a total party. Forget what the doubters may say, Mario lovers are going to adore this.

Brothers Mario and Luigi are down-and-out plumbers in New York City who are trying to make a name for themselves when disaster strikes in their neighbourhood. When they’re sucked into a warp pipe, they find themselves in the magical Mushroom Kingdom – but things quickly go from bad to worse. Luigi gets separated from Mario, and is sent off-course to Bowser’s home – The Dark Land.

To get his brother back, Mario grabs a new player two: Princess Peach (as well as other fan-favourite characters) to defeat Bowser and save the Mushroom Kingdom from his terror.

The kids’ movie’s plot is painfully simple – but that’s kind of where its beauty lies. There’s no bloating in this adventure. Good, naturally, triumphs over evil, and Mario comes out on top – but it’s the excitement, the references, and the complete recreations of familiar video game levels that will leave fans of the franchise truly enchanted.

Sure, it’s all a nostalgia trip for our generation, but what’s wrong with that? And when it looks this good, it’s hard to argue with the end product. Illumination (the animation studio behind the movie) designed a gorgeous digital world that rivals the likes of The Lego Movie and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.

But the Super Mario Bros Movie will live and die by its characters.

Chris Pratt as Mario is completely fine. He mostly uses his regular speaking voice (with, perhaps, a slight New York twinge) while blending into the catchphrases and mannerisms of the legendary Italian plumber. Other than being the vessel for the hero, he brings nothing spectacular to the movie. The way he was playing the hero, it seems as if anyone could have slotted into this role. Pratt needs a Mega Mushroom to save his performance.

Anya Taylor-Joy, on the other hand, is on Fire (flower). She builds a brand new Princess Peach from the ground up. She’s funny, eccentric and inspiring; without seeming as if she’s pandering to the young audience in any way. Princess Peach spin-off when?

The supporting cast is wonderful – but under-utilised. Charlie Day as Luigi is endearing and sweet. Seth Rogen as Donkey Kong is cute but perhaps overwrought. And watching Keegan-Michael Key’s Toad “Samwise Gamgee” Goombas with his frying pan is a delight. Each of the characters is used in new and interesting ways, and adopts new catchphrases which are unique to the movie. Some hit (like Toad’s insistence that he is Mario’s new best friend whether he liked it or not had kids screaming with laughter) while others missed (nobody should ever have to see Donkey Kong’s dancing pecks).

The real joy lies within Jack Black’s truly divine performance as Bowser. There’s nothing Spiny about his performance – he not only expands and creates King Koopas as his own, but he builds a hilarious, time-tested character that is going to be a fan favourite for both children and adults alike. Between hilarious bits about his love for Peach and his singing breaks, this is almost the definitive Bowser interpretation.

The Super Mario Bros Movie is the best video game movie ever made – and I don’t think it’s going to be beaten anytime soon. While Chris Pratt is glaringly average, the hilarious and heartfelt film levels the franchise up to cinematic franchise, and is completely worthy of the Official Nintendo Seal of Quality.

Can Nintendo and Illumination now give the same treatment to The Legend of Zelda? Please?

The Super Mario Bros Movie is now out.

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