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THE SUPER MARIO BROS. MOVIE review

ByTaylor T Carlson

Apr 4, 2023

THE SUPER MARIO BROS. MOVIE is directed by Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic. The film features the voices of Chris Pratt, Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Day, Jack Black, Keegan-Michael Key, Seth Rogen, Fred Armisen, Sebastian Maniscalco, Charles Martinet, and Kevin Michael Richardson.

Brothers Mario and Luigi of Brooklyn have quit their wrecking crew construction jobs to start their own plumbing company, much to the chagrin and doubt of their family members and acquaintances. During an attempt to save a section of the city from flooding, the twosome find themselves sucked through a pipe into the mysterious Mushroom Kingdom, where there evil Bowser is wreaking havoc, plotting to take over and marry its ruler, Princess Peach. With Luigi a prisoner of Bowser and Mario teaming up with Peach to recruit an army to take on the King of the Koopas, will good or evil triumph?

It hasn’t been a pleasant journey for movies based on video games. When the trend began in the 1990s, we had to sit through some pretty cringe-worthy stuff that hasn’t stood the test of time, not the least of which being a certain SUPER MARIO BROS. movie from 1993 that was more-or-less related to Nintendo and Shigeru Miyamoto’s game series in name only. But in recent years, it seems like video game-based content is getting better, including two SONIC THE HEDGEHOG movies and a killer animated CASTLEVANIA series on Netflix. This time around, Nintendo hasn’t made the mistake of completely relinquishing creative control again; they’d been hesitant to license out their intellectual properties after that experience. Mario and Luigi were certainly done wrong with that live-action debacle 30 years back (even if it’s gained cult classic status), but when we seemingly have a “Games Based on Movies” renaissance going on, do everyone’s favorite plumbers, also probably the most famous video game characters/series of all time, finally get the justice they deserve in a feature film adaptation? Is Nintendo’s most iconic franchise in good hands with Illumination and the director team of Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic, who’d previously helmed TEEN TITANS GO! TO THE MOVIES?

The MARIO franchise isn’t just in good hands. It’s in great ones. This is the greatest video game-based movie of all time.

I’ve been playing Nintendo games since I was a young boy, and they’ve always been a part of my life. One of my fondest memories is receiving an NES for my fifth birthday way back in 1989, with the pack-in came being the combo cart of SUPER MARIO BROS. and DUCK HUNT. From that day, I was hooked on SUPER MARIO and have never looked back. Having grown up with the games, I can say that, for the first time on the big screen, everything has come together perfectly. It beautifully captures the world Shigeru Miyamoto dreamed up so long ago (him being on board as a producer certainly didn’t hurt), uniting beautiful animation, action-packed sequences, humor, perfect pacing, and a brilliant musical score that incorporates many of Koji Kondo’s classic themes from several decades worth of video games. And while I do think the movie will score highest with longtime fans of the video game series like myself, I can say without reservations that there’s something for everyone here.

If you’re going to bring SUPER MARIO BROS. to the big screen, there’s an atmosphere that must be captured. It’s one that combines exotic landscapes, colorful characters, action, and humor alike. THE SUPER MARIO BROS. MOVIE checks off all these boxes, but excels with flying colors in every regard. From the fungus-lined Mushroom Kingdom to haunted mansions, wild jungles, sprawling deserts, and even aerial racetracks across roads and rainbows alike, the makers of THE SUPER MARIO BROS. MOVIE clearly did their homework. The movie has all of the above, and while there’s plenty of action and excitement to be had amid the colorful environments, it’s got a heart too. And I can’t say that for every animated kids/family product that comes out these days.

I’m also happy to report that the movie doesn’t lower itself to cheap laughs. With the helmers of TEEN TITANS directing this film, I was worried it may descend into excessive toilet humor. Thankfully, the movie doesn’t go that route, being that rare family film that’s truly good for the whole family thanks to its approach. Kids will love it for the action and colorful scenery. Adults who’ve played the games their whole lives will love the meta-style humor and all the references, from visual inserts to musical motifs found throughout.

The casting of the film was somewhat controversial at the time it was announced, particularly the fact that Charles Martinet, Mario’s longtime voice actor in the games, wouldn’t be voicing the character but would instead be voiced by Chris Pratt (of GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY fame). While I like Martinet voicing Mario, he voices the character in the games for short bursts or sentences, never full-on dialogue. I don’t think I could listen to his voice for an hour-and-a-half movie without it starting to get a bit grating. Luckily, Pratt delivers, giving the character just a tinge of an Italian accent without going over the top. This is reminiscent of how famed WWF wrestler Captain Lou Albano voiced the character in THE SUPER MARIO BROS. SUPER SHOW back in 1989, and this approach works surprisingly well. There’s even an homage to that show that had this fan smiling.

The rest of the cast is clearly having a great time with their roles, including Keegan-Michael Key as Toad, Charlie Day as Luigi, Seth Rogen as Donkey Kong, and Jack Black as Bowser. The latter clearly had a fantastic time doing the movie, as he even gets a handful of musical sequences in addition to being a menacing villain. If there’s one true standout in the cast, it’s Anya Taylor-Joy as Princess Peach. Relegated to “damsel in distress” status in many of the games, Taylor-Joy’s Peach is a beautiful, sassy, and fearless leader who isn’t afraid to be on the front lines; this is a far cry from the version of the character we’ve had in the games for so long (with infrequent exceptions), but I welcome this change with open arms and actually preferred this version of the character to the one in most of the games. Luigi is largely relegated to the status of the one who needs to be rescued, but pulls that part off nicely and still gets a few times to shine.

THE SUPER MARIO BROS. MOVIE looks as good as it sounds. One of the best and catchiest things about the games from the very beginning has been Koji Kondo’s musical scores, with infectious tunes that get stuck in one’s head long after a gaming session ends. Many of these motifs are incorporated into the film’s score, but done in a tasteful and fitting way depending on the action unfolding on screen. The film also uses some licensed popular music, including tunes by bands like A-Ha, ELO, and AC/DC, but again, they’re all incorporated tastefully.

Usually this is the part of the review I reserve for issues I have with a movie, but this time around, any problems I have are few and far between. Probably my only two minor issues are that I wish the filmmakers had given Luigi a little more to do, and that Bowser acts a bit too silly at times which undermines his presence as a fearful and menacing villain (but hey, Jack Black’s gonna be Jack Black, and bless him for that).

For me, being a longtime SUPER MARIO BROS fan, THE SUPER MARIO BROS. MOVIE is everything I could ever want in a MARIO-based film and then some. The visuals, music, action, and humor are all fantastic. It’s great movie for kids and longtime fans of the MARIO franchise like myself alike. This stands as the best video game-based movie I’ve ever seen, a record I have a feeling is sure to stand for many, many years. Absolute highest recommendations!

Also be sure to stick around for mid-credits and post-credits scenes.

By Taylor T Carlson

Taylor T Carlson Assistant Editor/Senior Staff Writer Taylor T. Carlson was born August 17, 1984, and has called the Vegas Valley home his entire life. A die-hard fan of classic rock and metal music, Taylor has been writing album and concert reviews since he was 16 years old, and continues to do so, having done well over 1,000 reviews. He is also a fan of video gaming and cinema, and has reviewed a number of games and films as well, old and new alike. His thorough and honest (some would say brutally honest) reviewing style has won him the respect of hundreds of music fans and musicians alike, both local and abroad, and the ire of just as many others. Despite being one of the youngest attendees at classic hard rock/metal shows around Vegas, he is also one of the most knowledgeable, having gained the unofficial nickname of “The Eddie Trunk of Las Vegas.” In addition to reviews, Taylor has written and self-published three books on classic hard rock bands, and is a regular participant in rock and roll trivia contests. Taylor also holds a masters degree in special education from the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV), and has appeared on the hit History Channel television series Pawn Stars. His dream is to be able to one day make a living from writing music books and reviews.

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