A week ago, I talked about the Dungeons & Dragons movie, which was entertaining for something I knew very little to nothing about. Now, the other side of the coin, comes The Super Mario Bros. Movie, which I have known too much about since my brother and I got our first Super Nintendo when I was five years old.
Maybe that is a bit unfair. Indeed, there have been fans of DnD since before my time. Yet even those die hard fans have got to be fans of arguably the most popular mascot in video gaming. I have not played all of the games, but you don’t need to see his growth as a cultural icon. From the simplicity of sidescrolling and jumping to race karts and nearly every imaginable sport to galaxies and odysseys, Mario knows no bounds.
According to the critical consensus of Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a rather thin plot. While this is not entirely wrong, perhaps it is best remembered that this movie is for those averaged around the age of seven (such as my nephews that went with me to see the film). Though in my years of being affiliated with Mario, I never thought of him as having a big family (although him being an Italian should have been a giveaway.)
Of course, there is no real surprise to see the film start off with Mario (Chris Pratt) and his brother Luigi (Charlie Day) starting out on their own as a new plumbing company. It isn’t long before they take the wrong pipe to another world, where the evil Bowser (Jack Black) is dead set on domination of all he sees, especially the Mushroom Kingdom and it’s ruler, Princess Peach (Anya Taylor-Joy).
That is it as far as the story goes, which is just about the right amount of band width kids such as my aforementioned nephews (who loved the film) can take for a plot. Some may think of that lack of plot as a weakness, but it as far as keeping kids intrigued, it is a strength.
Surprisingly, the film also has some hidden strengths in it’s voice casting. Like many, I was more than hesitant at the idea of Chris Pratt voicing Mario, but it actually got to the point where I did not notice it at all. I have always been vocal in my fandom of Anya Taylor-Joy as a performer, and I won’t be saying anything different here. If anything, I was a bit more surprised her Princess Peach had more of a role than Luigi does. There are others such as Keegan-Michael Key ramping it up as Toad, a really unrecognizable Fred Armisen as King Kranky Kong, and Seth Rogen’s Donkey Kong sounding like…Seth Rogen (which is not a negative in the slightest). Sadly, perhaps my favorite character was not in the film, but does show up in the post credit scene, so there is hope for the sequel.
In the end, there is one clear winner as the scene stealer, and it is Jack Black’s Bowser. Aside from adding more bass to his voice, there is the classic (albeit family version) of Black all over the Bowser scenes. It is one thing for Bowser to be a truly helpless “hopeless romantic”: it is another to have him playing the piano with the help of Black returning back to his days in Tenacious D. He is truly the best part of the film.
Parents, the film is PG. Your kids will be fine seeing this movie.
Those who are still skeptical should know something rather obvious: While this is no clear masterpiece, it is still much much MUCH better than the infamous catastrophe that was the 1993 version with the late Bob Hoskins. That movie was the start of a long run of movies based off of video games that were so bad it seemed like even a decent one would be a rarity. Over the last few years, that trend seems to have reversed somewhat, with the likes of the Sonic the Hedgehog films, the fedora wearing in Pokemon: Detective Pikachu, the reboot of Mortal Kombat, and (especially) the TV show The Last of Us.
It seems movies based on video games have finally had the dust blown out of the cartridge for good.
Let’s a- go!