Well. This reviewer watched The Super Mario Bros. Movie (2023) with his young child the day after release. Between then and writing this review there has been time for a lot of, shall we say, *discourse* about the movie to swirl within the sink of social media.
Some reviewers have slagged it off. Others have said ‘it’s rubbish for kids so lighten up’. Still others have countered that entertaining the small ones and quality are not mutually exclusive qualities.
The takes have been hotter than Bowser’s fire breath. This has left me trying to form my own opinion rather like timing a triple jump to an elusive shining star just out of reach.
Here’s an opinion for you: it’s fine. The animation is fine. The tone is fine. The plot isn’t there but then what is Mario’s plot anyway?
What Is The Super Mario Bros. Movie About?
Nintendo’s flagship game is just an excuse to get from location A to location B and the movie is certainly on similar lines.
Brooklyn plumbers Mario (Chris Pratt) and Luigi (Charlie Day) get sucked into a magic pipe and end up in the Mushroom Kingdom.
A lovelorn Bowser (Jack Black) has stolen a power star and has unilateral marriage in mind. Thus Mario must get some recruits, team up with Princess Peach (Anya Taylor-Joy) and save all and sundry.
The journey to do so takes us through a slalom of Nintendo intellectual property. Barely a musical cue, soundbite, or character animation goes wasted.
So tick off your Mario Kart moments, your Super Smash Bros melee (via Seth Rogan’s Donkey Kong), and as many power-ups as you could desire.
As one particularly mean spirited review said, “kids…routinely mistake familiarity for fun.” This quality is hardly unique to children.
The Super Mario Bros. Movie Official Trailer
Is The Super Mario Bros Movie Any Good?
You can look at any release schedule and find movies that are riding the nostalgia wave. Heck, at the time of writing there is a new (apparently very good) Dungeons & Dragons movie out.
Illumination, the studio behind Despicable Me, has done a perfectly serviceable job of bringing to life the kind of game design that has been delighting button pressing digits for 30 odd years.
The rainbow sparkles are saved up for the big moments and a few side scrolling grin-me-ups, but the movie knows to dazzle when it needs to.
That Mario has been written with a serviceable character of any kind is an achievement in of itself. It’s a little strange to see the diminutive plumber show emotions such as ‘anger’ or ‘sadness’ but with a thin ‘classic underdog’ veneer glued on he seems like a genuine person throughout.
Luigi’s trembling fear is one note but effective, and Bowser’s insecurity hordes the best laughs outside of always reliable slapstick.
The Super Mario Bros. Movie (2023) is an on-rails theme park ride. It takes you round the predetermined track and makes you smile, before you get off at the end and forget about it entirely.
It lacks the individual sass that Sonic The Hedgehog pulled out of the bag, or the fourth wall breaking cleverness that made The Lego Movie so endearing.
If Super Mario had worked in some substance that would have been a pleasant and welcome surprise. That it doesn’t is disappointing, but by no means devalues a perfectly serviceable film that didn’t need to take any risks, and duly doesn’t.
This makes scoring the movie rather arbitrary. My child had a lovely time. I enjoyed a feature length meal of ever reliable content made up of all the serotonin inducing bleeps, bloops, and wah-hoo’s necessary to spend a not unpleasant 90 minutes of life, on this occasion.
And what’s wrong with that?
Words by Mike Record
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