By Carly Chapman
“The Super Mario Bros. Movie” had quite the successful opening weekend, grossing $377.6 million worldwide, beating 2019’s “Frozen 2” opening weekend by $19 million.
While fans of the Nintendo franchise were anxious to see their favorite 16-bit characters on the big screen, movie critics who got an early viewing were leaving some readers worried. Grace Randolph, a critic from Beyond the Trailer, went as far as to say that it was a “shocking misfire for Illumination, the only bad movie they’ve ever made.” (Clearly she has never seen “Hop”, or half of Illumination’s productions for that matter…).
I went to see this movie on the Saturday of its opening weekend, in a theater filled with people of all ages, and I can safely say it is NOT Illumination’s worst film, not by a long shot.
Considering Nintendo’s heavy involvement in the film’s production, it is no surprise that it ended up as a creative film that still rings true to its source material.
The plot of the movie is almost as bare bones as it gets: Mario and Luigi get pulled into an alternate world through the famous green pipe, but get separated on their journey in between worlds, with Luigi landing in King Bowser’s territory and Mario in Princess Peach’s. Mario must work together with his newly made friends to not only rescue his brother, but to stop Bowser from unleashing potentially unstoppable power with his newly acquired invincibility star. There is also the underlying sublot of Mario’s father not believing in him and Mario needing to prove himself, but most of the movie plays out the exact same way if you remove that plot point.
Even though the plot is as simple as can be, the pacing of the movie is hasty. There is only one scene in the movie where the audience truly gets a breather, but this was also the same scene they decided to fill with background information for one of the characters.
The voice casting for this movie stars A-list actors such as Chris Pratt (Mario), Jack Black (Bowser), Charlie Day (Luigi), Anya Taylor-Joy (Princess Peach), and Seth Rogen (Donkey Kong), among others.
Many fans of the Mario Series were displeased with the choice of Chris Pratt as the role of Mario, and with the release of several trailers this displeasure only grew. However, the film itself differs greatly from the trailers in terms of his vocal performance. It is almost as if they used all of his worst takes and put them in the trailers (many of which had scenes or lines that were ultimately cut or altered). Chris Pratt’s performance was not distracting at all (nor was anyone else’s), and the movie addresses the lack of Italian accents for the Mario Bros immediately in a clever way.
There was one vocal performance that rose above the rest: Jack Black as King Bowser. His passion and expressiveness merged with the cartoony animation seamlessly, and he put his all into his music solo “Peaches” (which has already charted in the U.S. top 100).
Speaking of music, there were jarring highs and lows in the movie’s soundtrack. The orchestral renditions of classic Mario game songs elevated the scenes they were added to, and the inclusion of the original songs from the games were fun Easter eggs for fans.
On the other hand, there was a strange mix of classic ‘80s and ‘90s songs with classic Mario songs. For instance, the placement of “Take on Me” felt simply incompatible with the scene it was incorporated in. “Mr. Blue Sky” at least felt a little more applicable, but given the vast selection of music the Mario franchise has to choose from, it was an odd choice to throw in classic pop songs for what felt like purely nostalgic reasons.
Despite the mixed quality of the soundtrack, the movie’s animation quality was astounding. Not only was Illumination able to capture the bright, colorful land of the Mushroom Kingdom, but also the dark, fiery, borderline spooky land of the Koopa Clan.
The Rainbow Road scenes were my personal favorite in terms of the animation (though as a Mario Kart fanatic I am a little biased), with the mechanics of the game being utilized in an imaginative way to display an awesome, dramatic battle. The characters are wonderfully animated as well, with a range of expression that still stays true to their original in-game designs.
This film can be viewed as pretty average. As a movie I would rate it a 6.5/10. However, as a video game adaptation movie I think it stands much higher, at 7.5/10.