The Super Mario Bros. Movie is a 2023 animated fantasy comedy adventure film directed by Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic, written by Matthew Fogel, produced by Universal Pictures, Nintendo, and Illumination, and distributed by Universal Pictures. The film is based off of Nintendo's Mario franchise. It stars Chris Pratt and Anya Taylor-Joy.
"Mushroom Kingdom...here we come!" - Mario
Struggling plumber Mario and his little brother Luigi are thrown into an insane adventure when they are accidentally sucked into a pipe that leads to a different galaxy. There, they meet the noble Princess Peach and learn of the evil Bowser, who is threatening Peach's kingdom. Together, they must stop Bowser before it's too late.
Let me preface this review by saying that I am not a Mario fan. I played Mario Kart on the Wii when I was, like, eight, and I know the characters, but I've never really played any of the games, so keep that in mind while reading this review.
I do think Nintendo fans will enjoy this movie. There are tons of easter eggs (most of which I didn't catch because I'm not a Nintendo fan), which will please a lot of people who have grown up with these games. This film takes so much from so many various Mario and Nintendo games, which will be fun for fans of this franchise.
The animation here is also really good. I've never been a fan of Illumination's animation style, but here, they really knocked it out of the park. Instead of giving the characters these sharp, ugly features, they base the looks much more off of the games. The colors and environments we visit are vibrant. There's a certain energy this world gives off because the animation looks so good. It automatically elevated the film above some of Illumination's other movies that don't look as good.
The story part that worked the best for me was the relationship between Mario and Luigi. I know this may shock you, but The Super Mario Bros. Movie doesn't have the strongest plot in the world. However, they make the relationship between Mario and Luigi feel heartfelt and sweet, so that, by the time you get to the end, there's some satisfying payoff and moments between them that resonate.
The film is also just entertaining. I'm sixteen. I'm not the target audience for an animated Mario movie from Illumination. That doesn't mean I can't have fun with it. It's a family movie that kids will love. It's very short. It's fast-paced. There's some fun action and great animation throughout. If you take your family to see this on a Saturday night, you will have a good time.
All that said...this is not a very good movie.
One of the most disappointing things about this film is the plot. It is as bare-bones and thin as they come. Think about the most generic fantasy adventure possible. That's what this movie is. If this wasn't a Mario movie, everyone would hate it, because when you strip all of the Nintendo stuff away, it's just a cliche family fantasy adventure that we've seen a million times.
Also, I have no idea what they thought they were doing with Bowser. He's literally just a villain that wants to take over the world, but they do some really, really weird stuff with him. It's meant to be funny, and it is, but it's extremely weird. When you think about it for more than a second, it's just strange in all the wrong ways.
Quick nitpick, but I'm also not a fan of the Mario voice. I love Chris Pratt, but having Mario do an American accent just feels wrong. It feels especially wrong, because the first scene in the movie has Mario with the classic Italian accent, and it sounds great, but then they reveal that he's actually American and it just feels lame.
The screenplay here is also horrific. I know. It's a kid's movie. It's a Mario movie. But the cardinal sin of screenwriting is telling the audience something that they already know. And this movie does that SO much. For example, there's a scene (no spoilers) where Mario and Toad are going to visit Princess Peach. They show us a giant castle with her face on it. And then Toad says "That's where the princess lives." Well, duh. The film does that multiple times, and it's incredibly frustrating.
And the screenplay also is filled with incredibly generic, cringe-inducing fantasy lines. Especially when it comes to Peach's character. Basically everything she says sounds like it's out of the kid's version of Lord of the Rings, which doesn't fit within The Super Mario Bros. Movie. It just had me rolling my eyes. I couldn't stand how dumb this movie got at points.
This is also definitely a Mario movie made by Illumination. For those who don't know, Illumination is an animation studio that tries to be on the level of DreamWorks and Disney but constantly fails. They've made the Despicable Me films as well as all of the Dr. Seuss animated movies. Instead of being known for great stories that appeal to adults and kids, Illumination tends to lean towards pop music and fart jokes. While The Super Mario Bros. Movie doesn't have fart jokes, it does have tons of pop music, terrible attempts at comedy, and just some generic Illumination feel to it. And that's disappointing. The Mario world is colorful, fun, and creative, and it feels like Illumination stripped all of that down and made a Mario film clearly produced by their studio.
Final Thoughts and Score
For hardcore fans, The Super Mario Bros. Movie will work, but otherwise, it's just a generic fantasy adventure clearly produced by the weakest of the major animation studios.
I will go Sour here. Age range is 5+.
SWEET N' SOUR SCALE
Sweet (Great) Savory (Good) Sour (Bad) Moldy (Terrible)
"The Super Mario Bros. Movie"
Fun Factor: 7.5/10
Directed by Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic
Rated PG for animated violence and action, thematic elements
Released on April 5, 2023
1 hour and 32 minutes
Chris Pratt as Mario
Anya Taylor-Joy as Princess Peach
Charlie Day as Luigi
Jack Black as Bowser
Keegan-Michael Key as Toad
Seth Rogen as Donkey Kong
Fred Armisen as Cranky Kong
Sebastian Maniscalco as Foreman Spike
Kevin Michael Richardson as Kamek