'The Super Mario Bros. Movie' is the latest video game adaptation to hit theaters, but does it surpass audience expectations or fall short?
By John Farrar
'The Super Mario Bros. Movie' brings everyone's favorite plumber back to the big screen for the first time in 30 years.
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Since the release of the first trailer for The Super Mario Bros. Movie, passionate discourse erupted, with plenty of mixed opinions among Mario fans about whether or not Chris Pratt’s accent did justice to everybody’s favorite mustachioed plumber with a purpose. There hasn't been this much controversy over a classic video game character's fictional attributes since Sonic the Hedgehog's teeth (which they “fixed” before releasing the Sonic the Hedgehog movie in 2020).
It’s an interesting predicament for Nintendo to be in since, in the games, Mario doesn’t speak a whole lot and most of his dialogue—"Let's-a go!" "Mamma mia!" and "Wahoo!"—consists of silly one-liners. Check out this comparison of the English, Italian, and French voice overs to decide for yourself which accent you prefer for Mario (and know that there is, of course, no right answer).
So, why does this all matter? The Mario Bros. video game franchise has been around for nearly 40 years, which means many long-time Mario and Luigi fans are now adults with kids of their own. With their original fanbase now having big hearts and deeper pockets to splurge on nostalgic entertainment, Nintendo decided to take another shot at bringing their most beloved characters to life on the big screen. Despite being one of the top five most profitable video game companies of all time, Nintendo had plenty to fear since its first—and only—foray into the movie industry back in 1993 resulted in an unholy abomination that is regarded as one of the worst movies ever made: Super Mario Bros. (although there are some, naturally, who now consider it a cult classic).
I’m happy to report that, after seeing the movie in person, I can say with confidence that Pratt did just fine voicing Mario. But let me go one step further and proclaim it loud and clear: It was Jack Black as Bowser, Anya Taylor-Joy as Princess Peach, and Charlie Day as Luigi who turned in standout performances.
So are the movie critics just plain wrong and will the fans trounce them at the box office? The job of critics is to, at least in theory, measure the merit of a movie from a technical perspective by analyzing features like story structure, voice acting, editing, and so on. Fans, on the other hand, rate movies based on one simple question: How much did I enjoy the movie? Here at Likewise we tend to pay more attention to audience ratings and disregard the critics. But in the case of The Super Mario Bros. Movie, I can’t in good conscience ignore the absurd reviews from critics.
With an audience score of 96% and a critic score of 54% on Rotten Tomatoes I have to wonder: Did we even watch the same movie? The discrepancy between movie experts and fans is absolutely preposterous. Sure, there's not much going on in terms of the plot—it’s a straightforward “I lost my brother and I must go on an adventure to find him” storyline—but who cares? Not a single person has played a Mario game for the riveting story. We play Super Mario because we want to immerse ourselves in a magical wonderland with fun gameplay.
As many movie critics have pointed out, there’s hardly any characterization for Mario or the supporting cast. But once again, the appeal of this chromatic universe is all the awesome stuff from the games: exploring fantastical landscapes (Super Mario World), driving like a maniac (Mario Kart), and destroying things (Super Smash Bros.). All of which are extremely entertaining in this movie. The entire 92-minute runtime is chock-full of slapstick humor as well as easter eggs and references that only long-time fans will understand, making it equally enjoyable for kids and adults alike.
The lack of deep characterization actually benefits the film because it allows for rapid-fire pacing and constant stimulation—which has proven to be a recipe for success for other silly-yet-satisfying franchises (see: Minions). The animation is absolutely stunning and it’s clear that Nintendo didn’t want to pull any punches with the visuals. Jack Black as Bowser was a perfect casting choice and it was a pleasant surprise to hear him break into song. In fact, that was probably my favorite scene in the whole movie.
The ‘80s rock music soundtrack was a bit off-putting at times, especially considering the soundtrack for the games were riffs on variations of big band and jazz. But it never took me out of the experience because I couldn’t stop grinning. Above all else, the movie was fun. I had a delightful time watching The Super Mario Bros. Movie in a packed theater surrounded by families and friends laughing and cheering. Three of the kids were even cosplaying as Mario!
I’m sure this movie will be a smashing financial success, which means we can expect more Nintendo movies in the future. With a laundry list of iconic IPs (Zelda, Captain Falcon, Fox, Animal Crossing, Metroid, the list goes on), it will be interesting to see which movie they make next.
Interested in watching The Super Mario Bros. Movie? Add it to your watchlist here!
Great movie, especially for fans of the Mario games/world! Very kid friendly but just as entertaining for adults. - @siara_crager
If you love Mario you will love this! Bowser stole the show in my opinion. Jack Black is perfect for the role. - @reshawn_garnett
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