Genre: Adventure and Fantasy Running Time: 1 hr. 32 min.
Release Date: April 5th, 2023 MPAA Rating: PG
Director: Aaron Horvath, Michael Jelenic Actors: Chris Pratt, Charlie Day, Anya Taylor-Joy, Jack Black, Keegan-Michael Key, Seth Rogen, Fred Armisen, Sebastian Maniscalco
ario (Chris Pratt) and his brother Luigi (Charlie Day) brave the first steps of entrepreneurship by starting a plumbing company in their hometown of Brooklyn, New York. Despite contempt from former associates and ridicule from their own family members, the inseparable duo head off to their first contract, determined to save the world – or at least their clients’ leaky faucets. When the duo learns from the local news that the authorities are struggling with a burst water main, they spring into action to assist, only to accidentally uncover a mysterious pipe that unexpectedly transports them to the wondrous and magical Mushroom Kingdom. Mario tumbles into Toad Town, a colorful, jovial city populated with sentient mushrooms, while Luigi finds himself stranded in the sinister Dark Lands, a smoke and lava-filled wasteland controlled by the malicious, reptilian giant Bowser (Jack Black). Desperate to save his brother, Mario enlists the aid of the intrepid Toad (Keegan-Michael Key) to take him to the castle in the center of the city to meet its benevolent monarch, Princess Peach (Anya Taylor-Joy).
“I’m so glad we spent our life savings on this commercial!” Although they’re mere manual laborers with foolishly exaggerated accents – for the sake of advertising – they naturally excel at parkour, which is the standard way to navigate Brooklyn. It will certainly come in handy when they contend with swarms of jaundiced turtle soldiers who have waged war on the penguin people and the mushroom empire. The story, of course, is well-known, though its attempts to mold the setup into something that makes sense is very much a stretch (especially with hovering obstacles, man-eating plants, raceways, the layout of the lands, and power-up boxes).
It’s good for slapstick, however, which considerably supplements the action-packed adventure – a high-stakes battle for a nation that is conveniently connected not only to Earth, but also an infinite number of other realms by mysteriously-placed, green pipe portals. Longtime fans will delight in picking out all of the numerous nods to the source material, which the filmmakers have mined exhaustively for inspiration. Instantly recognizable sound effects and melodies lead to a wealth of references, from musical to visual to conceptual. The game mechanics are also on display, particularly with modes of travel (and Mad Max levels of frenetic kart racing), while characters, locations, background decorations, colors, textures, and more bring the classic video game entities to a polished, three-dimensional life. “So these bricks are just floating here?”
As Mario opts to play video games to unwind, he’s also required to play out the standard Mario game as part of his very existence; in essence, audiences are watching an unseen player control the character in this elaborate, continuous-cut-scene arena. Fortunately, the nostalgia factor and general familiarity (as well as the fact that the Mario property hasn’t had a big-screen adaptation in decades) are strong enough to mitigate the problems of simply viewing a video game as opposed to actually playing it. A few sequences are curiously unfitting (such as when Bowser starts hammering piano keys, though this can be attributed to Jack Black’s influences, much in the same way that Donkey Kong receives more than a few seconds to dwell on Seth Rogen’s unmistakable laugh – the voice casting is hit or miss in this regard), but the pacing is mostly brisk, strongly catering to younger viewers while tossing in just enough retro soundtrack numbers and mildly rude jokes to amuse older attendants.
As if forced to include wholesome values, unable to imagine a Mario movie that solely embraces the nuttiness of fungi-based superpowers, the picture adds in notes about making parents proud, never giving up, championing teamwork (and brotherly love), and maintaining courage, among other dreadfully ordinary morals. It’s terribly unnecessary and flagrantly frivolous, especially in a project so devoid of surprises, even if it’s consistently lighthearted and faithful to the property. Nothing about “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” is game-changing, but it’ll be difficult for fans to ignore the entertainment value – in the same way that “The Lego Movie” or “Tomb Raider” or “Mortal Kombat” (and countless more) presented and visualized iconic imagery during introductions to famous worlds, missions, personas, and interactions.
– The Massie Twins