Did we get Sonic (2020) or Super Mario Bros. (1993)? The answer is very clear.
When I first heard an animated Mario movie was on the way, I was more than excited. When I saw the voice cast, I was apprehensive. And when I saw the first trailer, I was fully prepared to be hurt going into the movie. I think I can safely say that Jack Black suits the role of Bowser perfectly. Chris Pratt, on the other hand, is not who we had in mind for one of the most legendary characters in all of video game history. Not to mention, the film was being animated by Illumination, who are the team behind Despicable Me and Minions.
Super Anxious Tom
Thanks to our friends at Universal, I was invited to an early screening of The Super Mario Bros. Movie, and I can safely say, this is the best video game movie to date and it far exceeded my expectations. If you are a Nintendo fan, you will not be disappointed. I left the theater absolutely beaming and its been very difficult to not gush about this movie to all my friends before the embargo lifts. Thankfully, I can now word-vomit all my thoughts about this movie into this review.
The opening of the film really sets the scene for how gorgeous and visually spot on the entire film is, as well as hearing new renditions of classic Mario Bros. themes like Bowser’s entrance music. For those who haven’t been following Mario’s video game history, the games are all about the visuals and the soundtrack. There is very little dialogue in the games outside of Mario’s classic catchphrases, Browser’s menacing laugh and Peach’s promise to bake us a cake.
Visual and Audio Easter Gggs Galore
Every single scene in this movie is filled to the brim with visual and audio Easter eggs covering Mario’s entire history. There’s everything from the original Donkey Kong (1981) arcade game to Browser’s Fury on the Switch (2021). As well as everything from Punch Out, Star Fox to even a reference to when Nintendo was originally making playing cards. And while I feel I was pretty eagle eyed and spotted most of the visual secrets, I’m sure there was plenty I missed. I’m already excited to head back to the theater and watch it all again.
From a story perspective, The Super Mario Bros. Movie is a kids movie at heart, so do not expect a story telling masterpiece. If you’ve played any of the more modern Mario games that do have somewhat of a story, such as Super Mario Galaxy or Super Mario Odyssey, then the story will share a bunch of beats that you’ll be familiar with. Of course, there are a number of unique moments that come up that only someone like Jack Black could pull off. I won’t put any spoilers in here but it’s perfect. Of course, in typical Illumination fashion, the slow-mo effect is used liberally but thankfully, that seems to be the only bit of Minions that made it into the film.
True to Source Material
Coming in at 1 hour and 30 mins, I definitely wished we could have stayed in the world of Mario more, but again, with this being a kids movie, I can’t blame the producers. The pacing of the movie was smooth and quick, not spending too long in each area. Despite that, I really enjoyed the sheer amount of the Mario world we did see. Everything from Dry Dry Desert to the Kong Kingdom was on point and true to source material.
Outside of Mario’s catch phrases and iconic costumes, the other thing Mario is most known for is the power ups, or specifically, the iconic Super Mushroom. I really enjoyed how Mario’s power ups made it to the big screen and the explanation as to how they work in this movie world. With the visual and lore aspects combined, this is probably one of the faithful adaptations of a video game I’ve seen in the movie space.
Jack Black IS Bowser
Okay, let’s talk about the biggest elephant in the room, the voice cast. We have Jack Black as Bowser, Keegan-Michael Key as Toad, Anya Taylor-Joy as Peach, Seth Rogan as Donkey Kong, Charlie Day as Luigi and the main head-liner, Chris Pratt, as Mario. Let’s start with Jack Black. Practically every scene he’s in, he steals the show. Jack Black perfectly encompasses Bowser’s sinister side as well as his more, “true feelings” side. We also get a few scenes that only Jack Black could pull off. I couldn’t have picked a better actor and I only hope we get to see more of him in the future. Anya does a wonderful job of capturing Peach’s soft and determined nature, another perfect fit here.
With Keegan-Michael Key as Toad, it honestly felt like anyone could have done this role. Toad throughout the movie is your typical shout-y, over the top character where the editors have just pitch-shifted his voice. The same could basically be said for Seth Rogan as Donkey Kong, who literally just does his normal Seth Rogan voice. As he’s done previously for Allen the Alien in Invincible or nearly any other character. To be fair, he did do a better job than the 1996 Donkey Kong Country animated show, but that’s not saying much.
Who Can Replace Charles Martinet?
On to our main guys; the Mario Brothers. I think it’s worth noting, (as it’s something that has already been mentioned in the trailers) that the Mario Brothers are meant to be two humans from modern day Brooklyn. And, keep in mind, for the last 30 plus years, one legendary man, Charles Martinet has voiced both Mario and Luigi. And while he’s been doing these characters, the entire Mario family combined hasn’t said a lot. So to hear a new take on these voices is a scary prospect. Especially because of how much these characters mean to so many people.
So to start, I think Charlie Day did a pretty good job. Again, it’s new and it takes some getting used to but I think he definitely pulls it off. However, due to the story, I don’t think he really gets enough screen time to really cement himself as our green mustached brother.
So the man in red. The most recognisable character in all of video game history is getting a new, modern day voice, and Chris Pratt is the man to do it. So let’s rip the band-aid off, how did he do? He was fine. It was nothing special. It was the most vanilla Brooklyn accent you could get. And I think that was probably just a safe move from Nintendo. Personally, the rest of the movie was so enjoyable, I got over his voice pretty quickly. If they changed his voice in the next movie and didn’t announce it, I doubt I or anyone else would notice. Mario’s voice was by far the weakest part of the film, but everything else, from the visuals, soundtrack and Jack Black and Anya Taylor-Joy really carried the movie.
Super Thrilled Tom!
After months of anticipation and worrying about which way this movie was going to go, I’m so glad with how this movie turned out. While yes this is a kids movie, but this is a movie that is 100% geared toward pleasing the fans. I still can’t get over the visuals and that amazing soundtrack. Not to mention all the cameos and Easter eggs. (Don’t forget to wait till after the credits!) To put it simply, The Super Mario Bros. Movie is a pure nostalgia trip that took me right back to the start of my gaming history to the present day. I am very, very excited for what’s to come in the future.