It has been a staple of the video gaming world since Nintendo produced the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1985. In 1992, a live-action version of the game was made starring Bob Hoskins, and it is still regarded as one of the worst movies ever made. Now, co-produced by Illuminations, the creators of the Minions, The Super Mario Bros. Movie is here, bringing to life the characters that have managed the staying power of reinvention with each game’s console. This new big-screen adaptation is as bright and as colourful as the games but lacks that one crucial element: a plot.
Mario and Luigi are brothers starting their new plumbing business in New York. One day, while investigating a giant water leak, they discover a secret world where Luigi is captured and hung over a vat of molten lava. At the same time, Mario has been sent to Mushroom Land, ruled by Princess Peaches and under attack by Bowser, who will destroy the land unless the Princess marries him. Mario must find a way to stop him and save the realm and his brother.
The filmmakers have decided they want their film to make the fans happy. They have gone all out for the visuals, creating the lands that are so popular with the players while capturing the details of each character. They are all there, from the brothers, Princess Peaches, Bowser and his turtle gang, and even Donkey Kong arrives. We get a nod to the original platform game, where Mario bounces along ledges and hovering brick paths, to an extended karting scene equipped with banana skins and bullets with faces. If the audience were given a handset, they could play the movie like a game.
While it’s all very colourful and loud and brimming with easter eggs, it has been forgotten that most movies have at least a plot. This one is so thin you could see right through it. A 90-minute chase through the various lands, whether by foot or kart, with Bowser’s floating fortress threatening the worlds, a film does not make. This means that character development, relationships that make sense and any real peril have been left out, so you are just left with imaginative animation that, after the initial few moments that impress you, you are going through the motions of a movie made to please the fans and the very young but little else.
Nintendo wants to capture the same joy audiences got from watching the first Lego Movie. The difference is that the Lego Movie had enough to keep both the young and old interested, with clever gags, inventive ideas and a plot that, while wildly all over the place, came together at the end. This fails to hit the same high marks as that film, so we are left waiting for something to keep the older and non-game-playing audience members interested. In fact, even at 90 minutes long, it felt like a slog.
The vocal talents are all good, with Chris Pratt ideally suited as Mario, even though fans were not best pleased with the choice and a scene at the film’s beginning explaining the dropping of the stereotypical Italian accent. Charlie Day is also acceptable as Luigi, while Anya Taylor Joy makes for a tough Princess Peaches, and Jack Black is the only one to raise a smile as Bowser, particularly during his rock edition of a love song to the Princess.
The Super Mario Bros. Movie is a far better film than the live-action version, but that really isn’t a high standard to mark it on. This will keep the fans and young happy, but it is instantly forgettable and could be described as candy for the eyes. The best bet is to set up your old consoles and play the game you grew up with. You’d find it a far more enjoyable experience.
2 out of 5
Directors: Aaron Horvath, Michael Jelenic and Pierre Leduc
Starring: Chris Pratt, Anya Taylor Joy, Charlie Day, Jack Black, Seth Rogan, Keegan Michael-Key, Fred Armisen, Kevin Michael Richardson
Written by: Matthew Fogel
Running Time: 92 mins
Release date: 5th April 2023