The gradual, inexorable, rise in quality of the video game adaptation hit a new high thanks to the release of HBO’s impressively accurate The Last Of Us which saw Pedro Pascal level-up his adoptive parenting game as he struggled to stay alive in a fungi-infected dystopia. Well, it’s now time for the turn of a completely different mushroom kingdom as it’s time for Super Mario himself to take a second shot at the big time after the legendarily weird live action attempt which saw Bob Hoskins bounce around on wires while Dennis Hopper scowled at him under a Donald Trump meets Mad Max hairdo.
Animated by Illumination Studios (you know, the one that’s been almost solely kept afloat by the Minions), going fully CGI is probably the smartest movie a Mario movie could possibly make, but can Mario’s newest jump to the big screen finally reach the next level?
Only one way to find out… Here we goooooo!
Plumber brothers Mario and Luigi have decided to branch out on their own and use their respective talents to start their own business, but on top of getting a noticable lack of support from their family, a freak plumbing accident sends them hurtling into an alternate, fantasy dimension that’s currently under seige by the hulking King of the Koopas, Bowser.
Luigi is instantly captured, but Mario stumbles upon the Mushroom Kingdom and after teaming up with the offensively cute, wannabe adventurer, is subsequently enlisted by the tenacious Princess Peach to employ his skills of having suprisingly good cardio for a short, tubby guy dressed in jean overalls.
In an effort to match Bowser’s sizable army that contains various types of war mongering turtles, sentient bullets, weird hooded masked things and various other beings that could have only come from the over taxed brain of an 80’s videogame designer, both Peach and Mario make their way to Jungle World in order to convince King Cranky Kong to lend them their army of strapping Apes. However, Cranky lives up to his name when he decrees that his army will only stand against the Koopas if the diminutive plumber can best his son, Donkey Kong, in single combat.
Can Mario defeat Donkey, negotiate the Rainbow Road, rescue his perpetually terrified brother and save the Mushroom Kingdom and its Princess from Bowser’s amorous designs? I’ve got a tougher task: can I manage to stretch out one of the thinnest plots I’ve experienced in ages to fill the space I’ve allotted for the synopsis – or will I have to make meta jokes about writing a review within the review I’m writing in order to achieve my thankless goal…
What do you think?
First things first – anyone who has even remotely one warm and fuzzy memory about playing one of the endless amount of Mario games will no doubt be well served by The Super Mario Bros. Movie as it is without a shadow of a doubt, the most shamelessly nostalgia-heavy experience you’ll have all year outside of incurring a coma inducing head injury that allows you to relive all your fondest, childhood memories. There’s particularly nothing wrong with that per se and even I have to admit, the movie raised fairly frequent chuckles with the odd familiar music cue or joke at the expense of the expansive lore, but once those final credits roll, you’ll soon realise that’s all the movie trades in.
This is most evident once you get to spend time with the impressively well cast string of actors brought together to bring life to these famous characters who, while almost perfectly embody their Nintendo-ed avatars, weird have absolutely no chemistry with one another at all. Chris Pratt (arming Mario with a far less stereotypical accent by switching to a Brooklyn twang) and Anya Taylor Joy (who even frickin’ looks like Princess Peach in real life) don’t just sound like they didn’t record their voices in the same room – they sound like they didn’t record them in the same decade due to a noticable disconnect. Elsewhere, the movie can’t even conjure up a single, crystal clear character arc that doesn’t sprawl over everybody else’s – if Mario’s chief concern is the rescue of his brother, Luigi (Charlie Day playing the only role in his life where he gets to be taller than Chris Pratt), why does the film spend so much time building up best buddy arcs with both Keegan-Michael Key’s Toad and Seth Rogen’s Donkey Kong (separately, of course), if it has no intention of satisfyingly completing either of them?
No doubt this is where people start leaping in with the usual excuses such as “lighten up, the games had no plot either!” and “stop being so hard on a film for kids!” – but in response I’ll say this: why make a film so empty when other kids films like the Lego Movies and Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse boast mountains of quick wit, an abundance of heart and boundless ambition to go along with the never ending fan service. Jesus, even the Sonic The Hedgehog movies had better developed character arcs.
However, if all this sounds like I found The Super Mario Bros. Movie an agonizing disapointment, that turns out to be not entirely true either. Jack Black’s lovesick Bowser is a legitimate joy to behold as he embarks on Tenacious D-style musical numbers while trying to realise quite possibly one of the most unhealthiest crushes seen on screen in years. Elsewhere, the movie has a vibrant style that fleshes out the 8-bit worlds of floating blocks and impossible racetracks to a truly impressive degree and it even pulls off some nifty visual tricks such as flipping the point of view of some action sequences, literally mimicking the side-scrolling, platform nature of the original games.
Hardcore fans will no doubt look past all of its flaws and embrace its shameless pandering to nearly forty years of coin grabbing and Gooba squishing that takes in everything from Luigi’s Mansion, Mario Galaxy, Mario Kart and countless others – hell, if you bust out a laugh at the fact that Luigi’s ringtone is the boot up jingle from the Gamecube, then this movie’s definitely for you. On the other hand, if you desire is little more substance to come flowing out of the pipe-shaped warp, you may find The Super Mario Bros. Movie more of a Koopa than a keeper…