Everyone’s favourite goomba-stomping plumbers have finally hit the big screen in The Super Mario Bros. Movie. Boasting an all-star cast, this fun-filled adventure sees Mario journey through the Mushroom Kingdom to rescue his brother from the clutches of Bowser.
The success of this movie boils down to one thing – it’s clearly been made with a lot of love, care and attention to detail. It remains faithful to the source material in its animation, music, story and of course, easter eggs. It’s like the video game has come to life in more ways than one, resulting in a genuinely fun ride from beginning to end. Despite being obviously targeted at kids, it features enough nostalgia bombs throughout to cater to older generations who grew up with Mario. That being said, nostalgia alone is a powerful thing, but it’s not enough to turn a terrible movie into a great one – there must still be an enjoyable, entertaining plot.
This film wastes absolutely no time in moving the narrative from one plot point to the next. The already-simple story has been trimmed of all fat, retaining just the bare minimum scenes needed to ensure it makes sense. It’s as bare as you can get and entirely devoid of any and all surprises, but it still somehow works. Without taking the credits into consideration, it’s about 1 hour and 25 minutes long, making it shorter than some TV show episodes out there. It seems this creative choice has been made with the short attention spans of young kids in mind, and that’s totally fine as they’re the target audience. The story they do string together is fun, cute and easy to follow – it hits all the nostalgia beats you expect in rapid succession, and before you know it, it’s over.
Despite this film having nostalgic throwbacks throughout, it’s more ‘fun’ than it is ‘funny’, at least for adults. The humour is silly and almost entirely directed at the kiddos, not leaving many opportunities for older audiences to get a good laugh. It’s disappointing, especially considering all the animated films that deliver jokes for all audiences, but also understandable considering this is a Nintendo property. And we all know how… protective… they are about their properties. I should also mention that the animation is gorgeous. It’s as if it’s been ripped right out of the (newer) video games, with every character and environment looking stunningly detailed across every frame.
The cast has been a hugely debated topic ever since the announcement that sent shockwaves through the fandom. The biggest question mark surrounding this film from day one has been the casting of Chris Pratt as the titular Mario. Despite all the concern about whether he’ll be distracting and just sound like “Chris Pratt”, he’s good in the role. Not once did he ever sound out of place – he bought a decent amount of charisma to the character and did justice to Charles Martinet’s legacy. The best and most memorable performances are Jack Black’s Bowser and Anya Taylor-Joy’s Princess Peach. They both emulate the predetermined personalities of their respective characters and lend their talents to some of the movie’s best scenes.
In the end, The Super Mario Bros. Movie is an enjoyable ride despite its very simple, barebones narrative. It doesn’t do anything creative and plays it very safe, sticking as close to the source material as possible and hitting just about every nostalgia beat you can think of. You could say there’s a lack of substance, but being a film targeted predominantly at kids and backed by Nintendo, you can’t expect much more. It’s a Mario adventure with about as much variety as the original NES game, but in a way the simplicity is what makes it a cute, fun ride.