The Super Mario Bros. Movie

The Super Mario Bros. Movie ★★★½

For full transparency, my review here comes from the place of someone whos played pretty much every mainline mario game released outside of Japan, almost all of the sideline games (party, tennis, golf etc) and has been a fan of Nintendos games pretty much right from the beginning.

So when I say that 'The Super Mario Bros. Movie' is a pretty okay film, but that your milage WILL vary massively depending on if you've played these games and understand the lores and references. I hope that establishes the kind of film your getting into.

I was initially quite skeptical about the 'Illumination'/'Nintendo collaboration. Im not a big fan of the 'Dispicable Me' movies and I have a mixed to negative feeling towards 'Minions' But I figured if Nintendo managed to keep a tight enough grasp on their IP as they have in the past when licensing their games out to 3rd parties, that things would probably be alright. And thats quite literally what this is.

Its basically an origins film charting Mario and Luigi, two brooklyn based schlubs who've just launched their first attempt at starting their own business in plumbing. They're not very good at it, but when an opportunity presents itself that'll give profile to their little business, they jump at the chance and wind up in a crazy 'otherworldly' trip to the 'Mushroom Kingdom'.

On the way however, Luigi ends up getting split up from Mario and winds up in the clutches of the Evil king Bowser and his minions, who've recently stolen a 'Power Star' with the intent to either give the star to Princess Peach as a gift to initiate a marriage, OR, if she refuses the gift, Bowser intends to use it to destroy the mushroom kingdom. Peach is made aware of this and so, with Mario confused but largely going along with it, the pair head out to the 'Kong' Kingdom to try and get help to stop Bowsers army before its too late.

The script here, iiiiiis a little bit lumpy if im being totally honest. My biggest issue with the film truthfully is that a lot of stuff just kind of 'Happens' and we're expected to go along with it. The film runs at a near break neck pace and in places it almost feels like a series of 'minisodes' that have been stitched together into a feature rather than a coherent 3 act structured film.

This is one of the few times where I kind of wish the film had slowed down by maybe 10 minutes or so, because there are a LOT of instances where a new plot element or layer is introduced that really could have done with a little more backstory, explanation or grounding. But instead we're just kind of told to 'roll with it' as we career through this thing like a runaway truck.

It has a pretty basic story to tell, which it does fine enough, but I just wish they'd let the thing breath a little more because so much is thrown at you across the runtime that it quickly starts to feel a little messy.

Outside of that, if you're a nintendo fan, this is a total nostalgiafest, barely a single scene goes by without SOME kind of nintendo or mario reference being stratetgically placed in the background, and we're talking some really deep cuts at that!

It has a fine enough 3 act structure all things considered and it transitions fairly seamlessly between those acts, but I feel like the 3rd act is a bit rushed (its where most of the issues around more breathing space seem to come up) and the actual end scene left me feeling a bit hollow after all the awesome stuff that had come before it. it all kind of ends with a bit of whimper after a series of collosal bangs and that was a bit of ashame.

The important thing with a film like this is the humour, structuring and whether it would appeal to kids. and; I was honestly amazed, given that this is an illumination film at the RESTRAINT that was executed on behalf of the production team in not just devolving the whole thing into crass fart jokes. Nintendo must have had a total iron grip on the production because I cannot BEGIN to tell you my relief when I realised that this thing was ACTUALLY going to have some solid humour in it.

And it does! it's not the greatest comedy of all time, but it's gentle, had more successes than failures for me and I laughed out loud at least more than a couple of times. One thing I do have to say though is, they do a gag where they have a character do something funny in super slow motion, and it was funny the first time, but by the 10th time it'd happened within an hour I was about ready to throw my chair through the screen.

The structuring is a little messy as mentioned and there are a few moments that I personally thought for a PG rating (given that this is probably aimed at kids aged 5-12) were a little bit intense (mild spoilers here but a scene featured in the trailers for this movie in which Luigi is stalked in a graveyard by an army of Drybones put some 15 certificate zombie movies i've seen to shame in terms of intense spookiness)

Theres also some weird moments with tone and humour that were kind of odd in places, but I think all parties involved realised that while kids were the target demographic for this film, sweaty nerds like me would also be keen to catch this thing.

Is the film gonna win kids over? im honestly not 100% convinced. The screening I attended had a fair few kids in attendence and throughout the film I heard a fair few proclaimations of 'IS IT NEARLY OVER!?' and 'WHO'S THAT!?' Theres a lot of slow going moments in the opening act where they establish Brooklyn only to then pretty much NEVER bother with Brooklyn. and I think kids will probably struggle to make it through all the establishing, especially if a lot of it isnt all that relevent. Despite its current 800 million dollar gross at the box office I think it's gonna be the parents who come away from this thing more satisfied than the kids honestly.

Art direction and cine are absolutley on point, we have no instances of 'Ugly Sonic' here which is fantastic, almost all the characters are very closely modelled on Nintendos most recent 3d mario character models, with some very minor tweaks to Mairo, Luigi and Donkey Kong to help match the aesthetic animation styles. Its decent! and I think they really manage to bring the worlds within the mario universe to life in a pleasent, entertaining and power packed way!

Perfomance wise, The single best decision this film has is casting Charlie Day as 'Luigi' he's got that wonderful panicked nervousness behind his voice and honestly, even given Charles Martine's efforts over the last few decades, I think Day does a fantastic job and I honestly just wished he'd had more on screen time (The petition for a 'Luigis Mansion' movie starts NOW!)

Outside of that Jack Black is fine enough as Bowser, he brings a nice menace to the role that wasnt expected, Anya Taylor-Joy is fantastic as Princess Peach and again, genuinely surprised me as I was expecting a bit more of a retreating personality here, but to see Peach kick ass and genuinely come across as a really well rounded strong female character (and not just a 'damzel in distress') I thought was very entertaining and a nice development on the character.

The weakest elements here for me are Chris Pratt and Seth Rogan as Mario and Donkey Kong. and it's not so much that they're bad, just...they dont really bring a lot of character to the performances, I didnt personally feel like they made their characters their own, it just felt like I was listening to Chris Pratt and Seth Rogan. it maybe would have been nice to see them bring a little more than just, 'themselves but a bit peppy' to proceedings.

And finally, the soundtrack. And if you're a gamer. This things INSANE. almost the entire film is made up of medlys and deep cuts from ALL the mario games and even some Nintento products. From the Gamecube boot up screen jingle, to random tracks from 'Wrecking Crew' and almost every single mario game from the original right up to 'Odyssy' this clearly had a LOT of thought and patience put into it and it's an astounding tribute to nearly 40 years of fantastic music.

All in all? yeh! it was okay! Its not without its problems, I think the inevitable sequel will likely fix a lot of that, but considering the people involved, this could have been a lot LOT worse. Im not convinced your kids will love it personally, but if you have a love for the games or you've grown up with Nintendo, Id say this was worth seeing once at least.

I think my partner put it better than I ever could when, as we left the cinema she said 'That was decent, it's not something i'd be clamouring to watch again, but if I saw it was on one of the streaming services Im subbed to, i'd put it on in the background for a bit of a nostalgia hit.'

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