I did not play a lot of video games as a kid. I watched a lot of movies. That is why I am here right now. But when I did play video games, there was a near guarantee it was one of three. The Beatles Rock Band on Wii, Frogger on GameBoy, or the one, the only: Super Mario Bros on GameBoy Advance SP. It was and always will be my favorite video game. With that in mind, this is far from an objective review.
Illumination, the studio behind your aunt’s favorite Facebook meme, brings us The Super Mario Bros Movie. With characters, like the Minions, that often toggle the line between funny and grating, it makes sense to feel uneasy about this movie. The only other time we have seen the Super Mario Bros on the big screen was in 1993’s disaster. Some of you reading this just made a stink face at the mere mention of that abomination and others, unaware that the movie existed, felt a sense of curiosity creep up on them. Trust me when I say… Ignore it. It is not worth it.
All of this to say it is understandable if you do not have the most confidence in 2023’s The Super Mario Bros Movie.
Better Than You Think
Let me assure you that, although it is not “high art,” The Super Mario Bros Movie is a fun, worthwhile time for parents and children alike. Utilizing the nostalgia that parents may have for the games (and their sister games), the film is constantly reminding you why you fell in love with the game in the first place. Some of the references are put on a little thick. Some feel a little obvious. But the vast majority just had me grinning from ear to ear. I know this will not be everyone’s response. But I would be lying if I said it was not mine.
While adults will find plenty to like about the movie, the story itself is definitely aimed for the younger audience. It is very simple. Bowser is power hungry and in love and Mario needs to stop him from destroying their world. That simple. Your kids will understand and you might be left thinking, “that’s it?” But that’s okay! It is a Super Mario Bros movie after all. It is not like those games had a deep storyline we were meant to follow. And when you have a voice cast like this, it does not really matter.
Voice Casting All Stars
A lot has been said about the cast of this movie. In particular, Chris Pratt, who voices Mario, received a lot of backlash when his casting was announced. Ultimately, Pratt is not just serviceable but genuinely good in the lead role. Sure, he does not have the iconic, Italian accent. But at the same time, that may have been a killer to listen to for an hour and a half. Pratt brings a solid amount of pathos to his voice performance, just as he has in The LEGO Movie franchise.
Beyond Pratt, the cast includes Seth Rogen, Anya Taylor-Joy, Keegan-Michael Key, Charlie Day, and Jack Black. All of them fit in their particular roles. Black, specifically, nails the voice of Bowser. At once menacing, while also convincingly a character who is in love and just wants to be loved back. We even get to hear some of Black’s trademark singing abilities.
Overall, The Super Mario Bros Movie is a good time. It is not super memorable and it’s storytelling leaves something to be desired but its voice cast and the fun that they bring throughout the runtime make it a worthwhile endeavor. Mark my words: Kids will eat it up. Those in attendance at my screening had a great time and were laughing from beginning to end. For a movie like this, isn’t that all that we want?