Updated: Apr 12
“Heroes are made by the paths they choose, not the power they are graced with.” - Brodi Ashton
With the recent release of HBO’s The Last of Us and now The Super Mario Bros. Movie it seems to finally be evident to the studios funding these projects that bringing the game creators on board to oversee production of these films and series is of the utmost importance. To go in completely new directions and with apparently zero oversight leads to mistakes like the HALO and Resident Evil series. Or the Resident Evil movies. Man, outside of the games, the Resident Evil franchise has really struggled, to put it lightly. Anyway…
I’ve grouped The Last of Us series and The Super Mario Bros. Movie because with the inclusion of their respective game creators the final results are far better than anything released previously. Even the Sonic the Hedgehog movies are subpar at best. In 2023 we are thankfully, officially 2 for 2 on the video game adapted properties.
The Super Mario Bros. Movie isn’t exactly a game changer (pun) with its basic story structure holding it back from greatness but it otherwise succeeds in creating a narrative driven platform for one of the most popular game characters in history. The most obvious aspect of this animated adventure is the chosen animation style which boasts absolutely gorgeous imagery and stylized action. Unlike so many before it, this particular video game based movie is filled with pride from its creators. Rather than some half-hearted attempt at releasing a movie simultaneously with the Nintendo World at Universal Studios, which would be a wholly unwelcome idea, they created something both video game enthusiasts and animated film fans can equally appreciate. Unfortunately with Hollyweird’s track record it wouldn’t exactly be unexpected if they made something less than decent.
The voice cast is a bit of a mixed bag with some stellar performances from Jack Black as Bowser and Seth Rogen as Donkey Kong. At the other end is Chris Pratt as Mario who isn’t bad but isn’t really inspired either. He is, for the most part, serviceable and it’s hard to ignore the possibility that he was chosen for the role simply because of his powerhouse namesake. Again, he isn’t awful, he's just sort of there and as the lead character that’s not a good thing. Anya Taylor-Joy as Princess Peach is formidable and one of the more competent characters in the movie. (Side note: If they ever make a live-action movie and it’s inspired by this movie, Taylor Swift should absolutely play Peach. The animated movie version of her character is identical to the pop singer. Just this man’s opinion of course.)
Jack Black is widely known for his musical tastes and talents so it’s always great to see elements of his persona melded into the characters he voices. As Bowser, he is a metal loving monster turtle who can't help but break into random musical numbers and if that doesn’t encapsulate Black I don’t know what does. He, in the most Jack Black way, entertains with a beautifully balanced character that is both whimsical and funny, but every bit as dangerous and diabolical as he should be.
The standout though is Seth Rogen as Donkey Kong. While you could argue his presence is no different from Pratt’s, Rogen’s personality is such that you either love or loathe him. If you appreciate his Rogen-ness you will love this version of Donkey Kong complete with that pop culture infused laugh that we all know him for almost as much as his love for the devil’s lettuce. Much like they allowed Jack Black to be Jack Black as Bowser, they did the same for Seth Rogen as Donkey Kong. You can feel the spirit of his personality sprinkled on the well-known game character without it ever feeling intrusive. Like Black as Bowser, Rogen as Kong is a strength added to a beloved character giving them life even as animated characters.
I would feel disingenuous if I didn’t mention that while I’m not averse to animated features they aren’t really a favorite of mine either. I can appreciate them, I can get lost in their animation styles and much like musicals I can come across one from time to time that I genuinely enjoy (The Iron Giant) like any live action film. But for the most part, I’m not ever going to be first in line for the next animated family movie. Pixar is generally the exception to this rule. Let’s be honest, they’re just on another level all their own. But of course this is about Illumination and their most recent creation, The Super Mario Bros. Movie.
It has a lot going for it with just a few things holding it back from being truly great. That said, those few things never prevent it from being something enjoyable for the whole family and more particularly the gaming nerds of which there is always one in every family. It definitely caters to the gaming aficionado with Easter eggs littered throughout the movie, both audible and visual. But just because it might be made for the gaming lovers out there, it still manages a broad enough approach to appeal to everyone who’s ever been mildly interested in Mario or his brother Luigi. It’s-a me, Mario! Here we go!
Rated PG For: action and mild violence
Runtime: 92 minutes
After Credits Scene: Two.
Genre: Animation, Adventure, Comedy
Starring (voice): Chris Pratt, Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Day, Jack Black, Seth Rogen
Directed By: Aaron Horvath, Michael Jelenic
Out of 10
Story: 6/ Acting: 8.5/ Directing: 8/ Visuals: 9.5
Buy to Own: Yes.
Check out the trailer below: