The Super Mario Bros. Movie review: more ‘okie dokie’ than ‘wahoo!’

the super mario bros. movie
Share this Article:

When brotherly plumbing duo Mario (Chris Pratt) and Luigi (Charlie Day) find themselves transported to the magical Mushroom Kingdom, they’ll have to run, jump and Kart over everything in their path to stop evil dino-turtle Bowser (Jack Black). Here’s our review.

If Illumination, the house that the Minions built, can do one thing very, very well, it’s bright colours – and lots of them. If they can do two things, the second is slapstick, and their little yellow creations have the bumps and bruises to prove it.

They are, in a lot of ways, the perfect partner to bring Nintendo’s beloved poster brothers to the big screen. The Super Mario universe is both ludicrously colourful and satisfyingly kinetic: there’s nothing quite like the in-game feeling of punching a brick or making a perfect jump, if only because every action is matched with a perfect little twinkle from a benevolent piano. Their mascots even share dungarees.

It’s no surprise, then, that The Super Mario Bros. Movie gets a lot of the technical stuff right. 3D animation scarcely ever looks this good, and not just because it’s been colour-matched to a packet of skittles; every frame looks polished to perfection, the character design fundamentally unchanged from Nintendo’s source material – because why bother? The textures look particularly huggable – Toad’s head is at all times in desperate need of a friendly squidge.

Mario from the super mario bros. movie

credit: Universal

The cast, despite some very mean things said on the internet (whoever heard of such a thing?) are universally pretty great. Jack Black is an undeniable highlight as Bowser, given one or two musical numbers to stretch his Tenacious D legs, and the rest of the cast are never less than perfectly agreeable, though most aren’t given a great deal to do with dialogue that too often feels more serviceable than witty in its own right. Chris Pratt, for all Twitter’s chuntering, does a sterling job as Mr Mario himself – the decision to avoid Charles Martinet’s wonderfully cartoonish hyper-Italian accent is honestly the only sensible choice for a feature length movie, and Pratt gives our favourite plumber a new sound which retains most of the character we’re used to. That’s a pretty remarkable achievement in itself.

But if The Super Mario Bros. Movie is a prudently faithful adaptation of the source material, it proves to be a bit of a double-edged sword. Say what you like about the games (and they are almost universally excellent) they’re not exactly plot heavy, and it’s here the movie version really starts to struggle. By the end, it’s hard to see the story as much more than a series of “here’s a bit from the games” set pieces joined together by a bit of fairly forgettable dialogue.

Though it does run to a pretty tight 92-minutes, and the pace flies somewhere between a Dash Mushroom and a Bullet Bill, the film really does start to drag, and most of the jokes just aren’t funny or new enough to rescue it from slipping into tedium. For a franchise prized for its relentless creativity, its a shame the story of its cinematic reinvention is quite so, well, ordinary.

One particularly bizarre choice, given the beloved nature of the Mario Bros. series’ music, is the decision to fill the soundtrack with a who’s who of ubiquitous pop tunes. From Mr Blue Sky to Take On Me and Thunderstruck, it’s a jukebox pretty far removed from the nostalgically plinkity-plonkety piano we might expect. When the games’ original scores do make an appearance, though, they’re just as good as they ever were, and the orchestral versions do nothing to diminish their simple charm.

For fans of the games, there’s plenty here to enjoy, and it’s hard to imagine the cute and colourful animation to be anything but a hit with younger kids. As far as video game adaptations go, The Super Mario Bros. Movie is perfectly solid – it’s just a shame there’s not much beneath its building blocks but air.

Thank you for visiting! If you’d like to support our attempts to make a non-clickbaity movie website:

Follow Film Stories on Twitter here, and on Facebook here.

Buy our Film Stories and Film Stories Junior print magazines here.

Become a Patron here.

Share this Article:

Related Stories

More like this