‘The Super Mario Bros. Movie’ review: The Nintendo adaptation is a winner

Yes, there’s an explanation for why Chris Pratt’s Mario voice sounds so similar to his normal voice.

Nintendo has always stood out as an oasis of untapped opportunity for the entertainment industry, determined to squeeze every drop of content out of every other existing brand. The Super Mario games have created some of the most beloved characters in pop culture history, with instantly recognizable iconography of chain pipes, mushrooms, go-karts, and carnivorous plants. This is the kind of pre-packaged movie franchise that Bob Iger was probably salivating over during his IP purchases in the mid-2000s.

When you really think about it, the only remarkable thing about “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” is that it took anyone this long to make it.

For years, the elephant in the room was the awful “Super Mario Bros.” from 1993. That monstrosity, the infamous reimagining of live-action New York plumbers Mario and Luigi played by Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo, is said to have scared Nintendo executives away from the movie business for a quarter of a century. But to be fair to everyone, the source material wasn’t particularly elaborate at the time. The filmmakers had to invent everything because Mario and his friends were just pixelated little silhouettes running in one direction through a two-dimensional world. At this point, you might as well just make a movie about Tetris!

But in the following decades, the “Mario” universe grew into a sprawling, three-dimensional world. Not only do we know all the heroes, villains, and supporting characters, but most of us could name a few tracks from the fictional car racing league within the games. Simply put, there was already an incredible plan for a movie franchise. When Illumination announced they were making an animated Mario movie, all they had to do was translate what already existed to the big screen without screwing it up.

Fortunately, no one messed it up. From the decision to cast the once least offensive actor on the planet, Chris Pratt, in the title role, to the production design that looks like an exact copy of the Wii-era Mario games, “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” is largely about the movie. book that the task required exactly. Co-directors Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic have created a perfectly serviceable film that will make a lot of kids very happy and a lot of adults very rich.

When we meet our heroes, Mario (Pratt) and Luigi (Charlie Day) are just Brooklyn plumbers trying to make ends meet. They recently started their own business, but things are going so badly that they are still living with their disapproving parents. The movie cleverly explains the whole “Chris Pratt’s Mario voice sounds a lot like his normal voice” thing by revealing that the two brothers play up their Italian heritage by speaking in stereotypical Italian accents in plumbing commercials. But aside from the marketing gimmick, they just sound like everyone else in Brooklyn.

After a plumbing accident draws them into the New York City sewer system, the brothers find themselves in two separate vortices that take them to two alternate dimensions. Mario ends up in the idyllic Mushroom Kingdom, while Luigi ends up in the hellish realm of darkness ruled by the evil Bowser (Jack Black).

As Mario sets out to find his brother, he enlists the help of Princess Peach (Anya Taylor-Joy), the human woman who rules over a kingdom made up entirely of anthropomorphic mushrooms. (Why her title is “princess” instead of “queen” is a good question, given that she is the supreme ruler of the kingdom and has no royal parents, but it seems that in the “Super Mario Bros.” universe they are given titles of nobility. strictly determined by alliteration yes.)


The two people soon realize that they can help each other. Fed up with living under Bowser’s constant threat of war, Peach enlists Mario to help her mobilize an army to take down and retrieve Luigi. After teaching Mario how to navigate this strange video game-like world, they can head into the Kong jungle and try to recruit a walking gorilla to support them.

Mario quickly learns that exertion is the key to survival. Peach explains to him that the floating blocks with question marks are actually filled with various mushrooms, flowers, costumes, and other cool items that allow the burly plumber to punch above his weight against gorillas and dinosaurs. (The scene where Mario dons a cat costume and claws at Donkey Kong is probably awesome for innocent minds that don’t immediately think of fur.) Once he learns how to make himself huge and occasionally breathe fire, for the villains it’s over. characters from the Mushroom Kingdom.

Parents shouldn’t expect a Pixar-level experience, but Matthew Fogel’s script has at least as much narrative as the best Mario games. Children’s films can be – and often are – like this much worse. No one is reinventing the blue shell, but Horváth and Jelenic do an excellent job recreating the Mushroom Kingdom from recent video games while adding a decidedly cinematic feel. For certain demographics (namely, families who bemoan the fact that it’s been months since a major kids’ movie hit theaters), this will be an absolute boon.

But even if that’s not your thing, everyone should find a way to live with this franchise very quickly. Because it’s hard to see a future where we don’t get more of these. “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” is a true masterclass in exploiting juicy IP, building a complex yet familiar world filled with video game Easter eggs that could spawn other movies. A spin-off movie to Rogen’s Donkey Kong has been rumored for a while, and it seems inevitable that another half dozen will be sketched out on a board somewhere.

Mind you, Illumination has squeezed out six movies (and counting!) of a bunch of pill-shaped yellow guys who look like they just came out of a hairpin. There’s no reason to think this franchise couldn’t at least that large.

grade: B

Universal Pictures will release “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” in theaters on Friday, April 7th.

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