Today I went to go see The Super Mario Bros Movie on its premiere day and the following has nothing to do with the review. I just wanted to say I severely underestimated planning to see a family movie at a decent time. That's not to mention that this may just be the biggest "family movie" as Super Mario is one of the most identifiable brands in the world. Arriving too early and I may not be fully awake to appreciate the movie. But arriving too late would mean I'd have to directly deal with the "after-school crowd." Exiting the theater and seeing a long line eager to enter the theater room, I knew I made a great call. Avoid the weekend showtimes, I can imagine how chaotic it'll be.
With that said, is the Super Mario Bros Movie worth the hype for the rest of us who aren't getting out of school and enjoying Spring Break? The answer depends on what you're expecting from this movie in terms of content. Naturally, comparing it to the original 90s Super Mario Bros movie would be its only competition and it's two movies of the same brand on a different spectrum. The 90s Mario Bros movie tried too hard to take itself seriously, giving it a narrative, and keeping realism. It had little to do with the game. This movie captured everything that made Super Mario the icon he is today. It's what I call a "gamey" video game movie as it sticks to the confines of the video game. Nothing less.
The movie begins with Bowser and his army taking over the penguin army as he finds a super star and declares that no one "will stop him." This then cuts to a commercial featuring The Super Mario Bros plumbing, complete with a reference to the Mario Rap. In the beginning, Mario is heard with his Italian accent, which if anyone followed the production of the movie, would remember the controversy in Chris Pratt's voice. This is hung with a giant lampshade by Luigi when he asks Mario "What was up with the accent?" It was the first time the "accent" was addressed and the only time it was brought up in the movie.
Pratt's voice was honestly a good choice for Mario as hearing Mario talk in his high-pitched Italian accent would make me not want to hear him. He talks in a general 'Brooklyn Italian' accent, which is perfect by default. Plus, when the scene calls for it, he goes for a higher pitch more similar to the spirit of Mario. None of the voices in the movie were bad, although I had some faves of my own. Already, it does a great job of establishing the Mario Brothers' origins. They were two plumbers in Brooklyn, and Brooklyn is featured prominently in the movie's first third. There's a third character introduced named Spike who has a rivalry with Mario and already this was but one of many easter eggs in the movie.
The Super Mario Bros movie doesn't shy away from its plethora of easter eggs and references to other games Mario was featured in. As Mario is the Nintendo mascot, he has found himself taking many occupations and sports. One such occupation was a demolition man, as featured in the NES title Wrecking Crew. In Wrecking Crew, Mario's boss is foreman Spike, the same Spike that was featured in the Super Mario Bros Movie. A patch with the title "Wrecking Crew" can be seen on his shoulder, further cementing the Easter Egg. I don't want to discuss too much of the plot and keep it close to spoiler free as possible, but I felt the inclusion of the Mario family was a neat touch. It made the characters feel slightly more than just "two-dimensional," no pun intended.
This also happens later with Princess Peach as the movie touches upon one of the biggest questions and theories for Princess Peach. Where did she come from, if she was the only human in a kingdom full of mushrooms and toadstools? Seeing Mario for the first time, she's excited because, for the first time in her life, she sees another human. I thought it was cute that Mario just happens to be short and when he eats a super mushroom, he grows to be the same height as Peach. Regardless, Peach saw admiration in Mario because she saw someone she could relate to. When asked about her origins, she mentions she remembers entering through a pipe and then being raised by the toadstools.
One of my favorite parts of the movie was Mario's training arc. Peach laid out an obstacle course for Mario to complete and if he were to finish, he would have her support. Peach then began to show a demonstration including wall kicks, frame-perfect shell hops, and other Super Mario tricks. This is in reference to the hundreds of thousands of Super Mario Maker levels where professionals can turn some of the hardest created levels into a speedrun. However, the majority of the viewers are like Mario, struggling to make it past the first screen. It was a cool scene because it had a hidden meta-lore outside of the confines of the movie.
The Mario franchise as a whole isn't exactly the most lore-heavy franchise in the world. Even in the individual stories, it's some variant of "Peach gets kidnapped, go save the princess." Even the spin-off titles are very self-contained, so when there's ever an opportunity for a morsel of lore, I'll latch on. Mario says that he will take Peach to Brooklyn and promises her a pet turtle. Total an inconspicuous saying and not foreshadowing the future or anything.
At this point, I realized how quick of a pace the Super Mario Bros Movie was moving, as this was a 90-minute movie and already we were approaching the "heroes confronting Bowser" section. Here is where the movie excels at the plot. By not giving it a plot. Sure there are inner resolutions, such as Mario and Donkey Kong trying to prove their worth to their families, but in terms of the overall story? Princess Peach is a war-minded yet prideful figure of royalty who wants to defeat Bowser. Why? We don't know, but we're not supposed to know because it's what the story demands.
Bowser is infatuated with Peach and wishes to marry her, something that was very loosely based on Mario Odyssey as well as a common fan theory. Jack Black knocks it out of the park, especially when he goes into his serenades about Princess Peach and really breaks it down. But even here it's just presented without a reason. Why does Bowser love Peach? Because he does. The Super Mario Bros Movie isn't afraid to remind itself that it's a video game first and a movie second. Rather than hammer the viewer into the foundation of a plot, just give the audience what they came to see. A Super Mario Bros Movie.
Every possible reference they could squeeze in a 90-minute frame, they did. Each new scene followed a small orchestra intro to a related song from a video game. Princess Peach's Castle from Super Mario 64 would play whenever they were in the palace. Jungle Japes and the Donkey Kong Rap, both from Donkey Kong 64, play when they enter the jungle kingdom and when Donkey Kong is introduced. The Mario Kart 8 menu theme plays when they're in the Kart factory. You get the picture. There were many more and it was fun identifying each track as it appeared.
By this point, the movie was nearing the end and while I won't discuss the final scenes, I'll say that the film met my expectations. It was a movie directed under Nintendo's supervision so it had to meet their standards. It was expected for this movie to be a Super Mario Bros video game movie rather than a movie that bore the name Super Mario Bros. It does its job perfectly. It shows enough references to keep the average kid occupied and the average fan satisfied. Part of the reason why the Sonic the Hedgehog movies are cherished is that it also follows the "video game movie" formula. Sonic is more lore heavy than Mario so it can get away with following a plot.
If you're a fan of Super Mario Bros, which you must be if you're reading a Super Mario Bros movie on a website called 1UP Infinite, then I highly recommend this movie. Just find a perfect time slot where you can enjoy it in relative quietness and be sure to stay until the end credits. This is one of those movies where it has a mid-credits and a post-credit scene. Will we be seeing a Super Mario Bros sequel sooner than later?
The Super Mario Bros Movie is now showing in theaters.