Review: The Super Mario Bros. Movie
April 6, 2023
In 1985, the first Italian plumber entered the video game scene and immediately captured the hearts of fans. To date, the video game series has sold over 387 million copies worldwide, making Super Mario one of the best-selling game series of all time. In 1993, a movie was made for the successful Nintendo franchise, which is still one of the worst video game movies of all time.
Now, almost exactly 30 years later, Nintendo dares to make a movie again and wants to do a lot better than its original attempt. You can find out in our review whether they succeeded with The Super Mario Bros. Movie in cooperation with Illumination Entertainment. Stefan Ibels
ATTENTION: Any statements in this review only reflect the personal opinion of the author and not (!) those of ITweakIT and its partners.
Classic story retold
The two brothers Mario (Chris Pratt) and Luigi (Charlie Day) are trying to gain a foothold as plumbers in Brooklyn and have shot a commercial in the hope of finally getting customers. This also works and so the two brothers receive their first order, which at first seems to be quite simple. But things turned out as they had to: The job turned into a disaster and the two went home disappointed.
But when one pipe after another bursts and the water threatens to flood Brooklyn, the two hapless plumbers see their chance and want to help save the city. In the sewer, which turns out to be the source of the burst pipes and flooding, Luigi finds a strange pipe into which he is suddenly sucked. Shortly thereafter, Mario gets it too and both brothers are drawn to a magical new world. There Mario gets hold of his brother, but loses him again a short time later. While watching as Luigi is sucked into the dark world by Bowser (Jack Black), he ends up in the Mushroom Kingdom himself.
Peach in a new role
This time it's not Princess Peach (Anya Taylor-Joy) who needs to be rescued as usual in the games, but in this feature film adventure Mario must free his brother Luigi from Bowser's clutches. Along the way, he meets many familiar faces in the Mushroom Kingdom, including little mushroom Toad (Keegan-Michael Key), who helps him get to the castle and the princess. Unlike most games, Peach is not a helpless person who needs to be rescued on a regular basis.
She is quite capable of helping herself and knows very well what and how she is doing something. As a princess, she is responsible for protecting the Mushroom Kingdom and knows the danger posed by Bowser. So she teams up with Mario and they both go on a classic Super Mario adventure to stop Bowser.
At the beginning of the film, he invades the kingdom of the penguins in order to steal a valuable item that makes him invulnerable – the golden star. Above all, he wants to achieve one thing: impress Princess Peach and convince her to marry him. In general, Bowser shows a completely different side of himself in the film. Of course he's a nasty and ruthless villain, but he's also madly in love with Peach, and so it's jealousy that fuels Bowser's hatred of Mario.
Donkey Kong (Seth Rogan) and Cranky Kong (Fred Armisen) also join the story as the story progresses.
You've already noticed that, as is typical for a Super Mario game, the story is rather secondary and little more than a nice accessory. You can't expect a captivating masterpiece here, but the plot is told quite solidly and never gets boring. It's also nice that the filmmakers have also dared to take up a few original themes, such as Mario's aversion to mushrooms, which is brought up again and again as the story progresses.
Fanservice, fanservice and even more fanservice
Fans of the Italian plumber had to wait a long time for a good Super Mario movie, and there were good reasons for that. Not to repeat the mistakes of the 1993 film, Nintendo worked closely with Illumination Entertainment CEO Chris Meledandri and Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto on the production. Matthew Fogel wrote the screenplay, with Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic directing.
The influences and supervision of Shigeru Miyamoto are clearly felt in the film. Easter Eggs and other references to all Super Mario video games can be found from beginning to end. You could probably watch the film ten times and still not discover everything.
Already in the "human city" Brooklyn there are numerous references, such as a castle burger shop that looks like the castles of the first Super Mari o games. The Super Mario Bros. 3 logo adorns the brothers' company car and there are many other references.
At the latest in the Mushroom Kingdom you will be literally overwhelmed and hardly know where to look first. The classic items from the games also find their place in the film. If Mario hits a ? block, an item appears that is sometimes more, sometimes less useful. The functions are well known from video games and also apply to the film.
As befits a jump 'n' run, Mario has to jump and run properly in the film. In some cases, the classic 2D perspective from the video games can also be seen. At the latest when Mario has to master a parkour, in which all typical platforms are represented, every fan's heart beats in the throat. From the classic stone block to the rotating flames to the falling blocks, everything is included. Of course, the green pipes also serve as a transport route in the film and are used quite often.
The trade around the plumber
As usual from Illumination, The Super Mario Bros. Movie features impressive, solid animation. This is consistently at a high level and convinces with its dynamics and staging. At around 93 minutes, the film is perfectly timed, which helps ensure that it's an entertaining experience for young and old alike without ever feeling unnecessarily drawn out.
The music was written by Koji Kondo, composer of the main theme for 1985's Super Mario Bros. , and Brian Tyler, who has composed music for films such as Fast & Furious 9 and Avengers: Age of Ultron . Both did a terrific job on the film. Dozens of well-known and now and then slightly modified Mario themes accompany the viewer through the entire film and are always chosen appropriately. As an old nostalgic, my heart opened several times. But not only Mario themes were used in the film, catchy tunes like Holding out for a Hero by Bonnie Tyler or Take O n M e by A-ha provided a welcome change.
In the run-up, one decision in particular divided the fans: the choice of voice actor for the eponymous character Mario. In the original, Chris Pratt took on this role and many fans were skeptical that he was the right choice. Having only seen the film in the German dubbed version, I can only express my opinion on this. In summary, I can say that the German cast could not have been put together better. Leonhard Mahlich as Mario and Gerrit Schmidt-Foß as Luigi were just as convincing to me as Dalia Mya Schmidt-Foß as Peach, Tobias Meister/Daniel Welbat as Bowser or Marios Gavrilis as Donkey Kong.
John's opinion (conclusion on the film below):
The Super Mario Bros. Movie is presented exactly how you would imagine the video games to be as a movie. With great attention to detail and lots of Easter Eggs, the film provides lots of laughs and good entertainment. The classical pieces of music were pompously staged and the other titles also fit wonderfully into the overall picture. Shigeru Miyamoto's signature as creator of the video game series of the same name and producer of the film is clear. At the same time, you can see how Illumination evolves with each film and isn't afraid to try new things.
Some jokes should have been fresher and the story isn't a high-flyer either, but with its lovable characters and its warm nature, the film knows how to inspire both young and old. The scenes are inviting and engaging, and the colors are brilliant and harmonious, drawing the viewer into the world of the film. Very rarely is the picture too empty or the lights are not set appropriately. I was positively surprised by the German dubbing, which doesn't use the typical Mario slang and yet convinces with strong voices. This film is a work that many have been waiting for and it does not disappoint.
The Super Mario Bros. movie absolutely blew me away. Even the trailers gave an idea that this film is exactly what fans have been wishing for. Nintendo and Illumination have worked together brilliantly to bring a wacky animated comedy to the screen with lots of fun and action. Nostalgic memories are evoked throughout the film, sustained by dozens of Easter Eggs and the sensational music throughout the full 93 minutes.
But one question remains: can you have fun with this movie without ever having played a Super Mario game? The answer is clear: Yes! Certainly, some gags and allusions only ignite if you are at least a little familiar with the subject, but the bottom line is that The Super Mario Bros. Movie is a very excellent animated film for young and old.
Finally, a tip from me: stay seated until the end!
The Super Mario Bros. Movie is an entertaining animated comedy with lots of action and humor that has numerous Easter eggs ready and provides fan service. Fans of the eponymous character will be delighted, but the film is also consistently entertaining for newcomers. This big screen adventure will delight gamers both inside and outside the Nintendo universe.
Images: © Nintendo. 2023 ©2023 Universal Pictures