The Super Mario Bros. Movie: The BRWC Review.
Eight years after the idea was originally discussed, the animated ‘Super Mario Bros.’ movie is finally in cinemas. And, after the unusual absurdity of the 1993 live action film, I was sceptical of this adaptation right up until the trailers were released. Since then, my excitement has been high, but was it worth the wait?
‘The Super Mario Bros. Movie’ stars Chris Pratt and Charlie Day as Mario and Luigi, two brothers who start up their own plumbing business, only to get accidently sucked into the Mushroom Kingdom. Once there, Mario is tasked with working alongside Princess Peach (Anya Taylor-Joy – The Queen’s Gambit, New Mutants) to help stop the Koopa King Bowser (Jack Black – Kung Fu Panda, School of Rock) and save his brother.
After seeing the film, my scepticism was pushed aside completely: ‘The Super Mario Bros. Movie’ is an extremely enjoyable adaptation, even if it has one or two issues.
Illumination Studios and Nintendo are behind this adaptation. Whether you like the Minions/‘Despicable Me’ or not, it can’t be denied that Illumination are amazing when it comes to their animated visuals, and ‘The Super Mario Bros. Movie’ is no exception. The animation looks incredible and is very detailed, e.g.: Bowsers hair or the fabric on Mario’s clothing are incredibly detailed to the point where individual hairs can be seen on Bowser. Plus, various locations within the film looked gorgeous: the introduction to Mushroom Kingdom was wonderous and amazing to see, while Bowser’s Castle looked creepy, and Rainbow Road looked bright and vibrant. It’s clear that care was taken to make sure the locations, characters and overall settings were accurately portrayed, and Illumination Studios have done an incredible job at bringing the world of the Super Mario Bros. to life.
After hearing the announcement that Chris Pratt was going to voice Mario, reception was less than positive, especially since Charles Martinet, who has voiced Mario since 1989, was only going to have a small cameo. But, while Chris’ voice wasn’t anywhere near the resemblance of the video game voice, I didn’t dislike his performance as the red plumber. His voice actually worked for the film and fit the character comfortably as the film went on. Plus, I liked how the film did incorporate the brothers’ Italian accents. The brothers’ only use the accent during the commercials for their plumbing business, which was a nice inclusion, and helps push the plot along to an extent. But Charlie Day was perfect casting as Luigi and gave the fearful character a likeable personality the moment he appeared on screen. Both of these actors had fantastic onscreen chemistry with each other, making what could’ve been a strange film to watch a delightful one. While the casting may have appeared strange when first announced, Chris Pratt and Charlie Day worked perfectly together, and the brothers’ relationship was convincing straight away.
The rest of the voice cast were also great. When casting announcements were made, it seemed that an unusual choice had been made, especially with Bowser being voiced by Jack Black and Donkey Kong voiced by Seth Rogen. But these performances are just as great too. Seth Rogen was the biggest surprise personally because, just like with Mario, his voice fit comfortably with the character. Not only was it a surprise because of the choice in casting, but it’s the first time Donkey Kong has spoken proper sentences. So, while Rogen had a blank slate to work with, it was uncertain to fans whether giving the ape a voice would really work. But it does and it works really well; he gives the ape a humorous performance but is also able to showcase the character’s rage and short temper when needed. And, when there is a sombre moment involving him, Seth Rogen is great at giving Donkey Kong an emotional, or heartfelt moment.
But the character that stole the show was Bowser. Voiced by Jack Black, the actor fully embraced the role, and was perfect casting as the Koopa King. He made the villain surprisingly terrifying when the narrative asked for it, but was also able to bring in his comedic talent too. This is especially the case given that Bowser’s character arc is him wanting to rule the world, while being in love with Princess Peach. A couple of sequences revolving around the latter called for some very funny moments. And there was even a sequence where the actor was able to showcase his vocal range (yes really!). With Bowser being my favourite character in the Mario franchise, I was highly sceptical of how this character was going to be portrayed, but Bowser was perfect. He was shown to be a terrifying foe when needed, but also brought some humour into the film when his love for Peach was revealed.
And, it wasn’t until I watched the movie that I realized how strange the plot of the Mario franchise actually is. But, unlike the ’93 adaptation, ‘The Super Mario Bros. Movie’ doesn’t try to ground anything into reality. Instead, it tells the story of the game accurately, for the most part; with the only exception being the plot detail of Peach being kidnapped. And the story is very well executed because of this. Even when the film is packed with various references to different Mario games, the story is easy to follow, and the references don’t intrude on the plot.
And there are a ton of references throughout the film!
This review won’t be revealing all of them, purely because it will spoil some of the film, but the film was packed with references from various Mario games, as well as a couple from the spin-offs. These were delightful to see and blended into their environments brilliantly. An example is when Mario and Toad are travelling through the Mushroom Kingdom, and fans are shown how the city is laid out, which includes floating platforms and even a shop that’s selling a SNES game cartridge. Not only were the references fantastic to see, but I’m convinced I didn’t see all of them throughout the film, giving it a rewatchability factor.
The game mechanics were also portrayed, which fitted comfortably into the narrative. These included an obstacle course that resembled a custom ‘Mario Maker’ level, where Mario trained in, and a fantastic fast paced ‘Mario Kart’ sequence on the Rainbow Road track. Furthermore, there’s a side-scrolling sequence at the start of the film, similar to the ‘New Super Mario Bros.’ game, that fully demonstrates Luigi’s clumsiness and Mario’s confident personality. And it wasn’t just the visuals that were referential; the score was too. Composed by Brian Tyler (Scream+Scream VI, Escape Room 2, Chip ‘n’ Dale: Rescue Rangers), the score included variations of beloved music from different Mario games and was a delight to hear.
But the score for ‘The Super Mario Bros. Movie’ did include some strange choices, which felt jarring. Throughout a couple of scenes, a random 80’s song will suddenly appear, but would only play for under a minute. These all felt out of place, even if the actual scene itself was fun to watch. Compared to the rest of the score, it felt very strange to have these songs appear out of nowhere. I would’ve preferred the musical score to play throughout, without the need for these songs.
Like previously mentioned, the plot detail of Princess Peach being kidnapped has been removed, a choice I am happy with because this gives Peach time to shine as well as properly develop a relationship with Mario. However, the ‘damsel in distress’ detail instead is given to Luigi, who spends the majority of the film in a cage. I would’ve liked more scenes involving Luigi and Mario working together in Mushroom Kingdom, especially when the start of the film emphasizes Mario and Luigi’s sibling relationship really well. I would’ve preferred it if Luigi had been rescued earlier, and the brothers had worked together to defeat Bowser.
However, these issues aside, ‘The Super Mario Bros. Movie’ is a very enjoyable and fun film. The cast, though it may have seemed strange at first, are fantastic and fit their characters comfortably. The visuals are incredible and the references, both visually and musically, are aplenty. It’s clear a lot of care has been taken to create this film and it shows, even if some of the music choices were strange.
Along with ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’, ‘Arcane’ and ‘The Last of Us’ to name a few, it really feels like the film/TV industry has finally learnt how to do great and enjoyable video game adaptations. And, with more on the way, I’m very excited for the future of this genre. Furthermore, with Charlie Day interested in a ‘Luigi’s Mansion’ film and Seth Rogen wanting a ‘Donkey Kong’ film, it looks like this won’t be the last animated Nintendo adaptation, something I am very excited about.
We hope you're enjoying BRWC. You should check us out on our social channels, subscribe to our newsletter, and tell your friends. BRWC is short for battleroyalewithcheese.