We always seem to talk about how film studios just can’t get video game movies right. While there’s still a long way to go for most studios, that trend has been slowly changing. Now, a partnership between Nintendo and Illumination has created The Super Mario Bros. Movie, an animated feature that does so much right, the small faults really don’t matter.
The Super Marios Bros. Movie is light on plot, but it’s still mostly in line with the games. Mario (Chris Pratt) and his team have to save the Mushroom Kingdom from Bowser (Jack Black) and his cronies. Plenty of Mario favorites join in on the fun, including Luigi (Charlie Day), Princess Peach (Anya Taylor-Joy), Toad (Keegan-Michael Key), Donkey Kong (Seth Rogan), and more.
All of the voices work, but some do work better than others, mostly depending on personal taste. For instance, Anya Taylor-Joy didn’t quite sound like Peach to me, but her voice wasn’t bad by any means. The same goes for Cranky Kong (Fred Armisen) and to a lesser extent even Seth Rogan’s take on Donkey Kong. Many of the classic Mario games didn’t have much voice work, so there was some room to play fast and loose here.
While the Mario Movie is made for kids, it’s really a love letter to all things Mario, and the generation of kids that grew up with the original Nintendo Entertainment System and the Super Nintendo. There are a few songs mixed in with the action, and they’re all from the 80s, sparking a nostalgic vibe with Mario fans who are now in their 40s and 50s. For people who didn’t grow up in the 80s, or who aren’t fans of songs from that era, they may feel a bit out of place in the film, but it isn’t too bad overall.
Where The Super Mario Bros. Movie shines is in the enormous amount of Easter eggs and Nintendo fan service included in the film. Almost every scene in the movie has some sort of little nod or hidden detail that relates to all things Nintendo and Mario. You’ve got the bigger nods to the Super Smash Bros. and Mario Kart games seen in the trailer, but there are so many other little things that people will spot on repeat viewings.
Normally an overabundance of Easter eggs takes away from a film, but in this case, it just adds to it. The bigger nods are action set pieces in the movie, while the smaller details are only for astute fans to notice, without taking away from anything going on in the scene. Even with all of these fun Easter eggs, there’s still a ton of ground from the games that weren’t touched on at all, or only briefly hinted at. This is very clearly an animated film franchise in the making.
The only real issue with the Mario Movie is nitpicking more than anything else. The voice cast isn’t perfect, and there isn’t much substance to the plot. However, even with these small gripes, the film works very well. It will entertain children while taking parents back to their childhoods. At a mere 92 minutes, it moves at a brisk pace and doesn’t linger too long in any one scene.
If you’re a fan of Mario in the past or present, there’s so much to enjoy about The Super Mario Bros. Movie. If you’re not really into Mario or Nintendo in general, this is still a fun kids’ movie with nods to the 80s, but the lack of plot substance might lessen the experience for non-fans. Overall, The Super Mario Bros. Movie does everything it needs to do to be an entertaining film honoring the classic video game franchise. Bring on the sequels!
About The Super Mario Bros. Movie
Synopsis: The story of The Super Mario Bros. on their journey through the Mushroom Kingdom.
Directors: Aaron Horvath, Michael Jelenic
Writer: Matthew Fogel
Stars: Chris Pratt, Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Day, Jack Black, Seth Rogan
Runtime: 1 Hour, 32 Minutes
Releases: April 5, 2023
Bryan Dawson has been writing professionally since the age of 13. He started his career as a video game writer and has since worked for Random House, Prima Games, DirecTV, IGN, AOL, the British Government, and various other organizations. For GNN, Bryan taps into his passion for movies.