Super Marios Bros. Movie (2023) Spoiler-Free Review

The Super Mario Bros. Movie boasts a magnificent story that stays true to the source material.

The First Live Action Video Game Adaptation

“This Ain’t No Game” was the tagline for the 1993 Super Mario Bros. movie. Not sure what the marketing department was thinking at the time, but it was counterintuitive and an omen of things to come. With a troublesome production and over half a dozen rewrites, it was the first live-action adaptation of the popular video game. Starring Bob Hoskins, John Leguizamo, and Dennis Hopper, the film delivered on its tagline in spades. It had nothing to do with the video games children and adults fell in love with. Speaking of children, the movie had a PG rating despite being filled with inappropriate jokes and imagery from an 80s science fiction flick. This feces-filled dumpster fire traumatized a generation, including the Nintendo company, for nearly 30 years. You can learn more about the chaos behind the scenes in the video below.

Is The Super Mario Bros. Movie Good?

Fast forward to October 2022, and the internet is in a rage over the voice-over reveal of Mario in the first teaser trailer. Why? It sounded exactly like Chris Pratt, the man behind the character. Causing fans to feel as if no effort was put into the role, triggering disappointing memories of the 1993 Super Mario Bros. movie. However, subsequent trailers swayed viewers’ hearts, causing them to appear in droves at the premiere. The Super Mario Bros. Movie grossed $377 million worldwide in its opening weekend over the Easter holiday. Produced by the animation studio Illumination Entertainment and distributed by Universal Pictures, the movie had an estimated budget of $100 million. It has since returned its budget five times over at the time this review is written.

The Super Mario Bros. Movie boasts a runtime of 1 hour and 32 minutes, allowing it to be consumed in repeat viewings on multiple screens. An issue blockbusters tend to have these days within the fantasy and adventure genres. Marvel films average runtimes of 2.5 hours, while Oscar-nominated dramas and musicals tend to extend well beyond that. The Super Mario Bros. Movie has a cast of extremely popular actors from many Hollywood franchises and properties. The voice talent includes Chris Pratt as Mario, Anya Taylor-Joy as Princess Peach, Charlie Day as Luigi, Jack Black as Bowser, and Keegan-Michael Key as Toad.

Why You Should See The Super Mario Bros. Movie

It’s a magnificent story that follows the titular duo of Mario and Luigi, two brothers from Brooklyn seeking respect and recognition. Through a series of events, the brothers find themselves in the magical world of the Mushroom Kingdom.  Illumination Entertainment did a phenomenal job bringing the 2D world to life. Known for Despicable Me, Sing, Minions, and Dr. Seuss adaptations, the animation studio is no stranger to delivering rich worlds and spin-off properties. The colors were electric and high in contrast. Easter Eggs and references are everywhere. This includes musical cues, tracks from the game, catchphrases, and historical references to earlier iterations of the characters.

Adults and children who played The Super Mario Bros. video games over the years might have different experiences. There are elements from contemporary game installments, such as Super Mario Galaxy and New Super Mario Bros. It’s what makes the movie so entertaining. In addition to reference, the story is relatively grounded. Surprising to hear? Themes of family, acceptance, identity, and power are all present. The Mushroom Kingdom hosts a lot of beautiful sights, but it is also full of danger and mystery—many of which the inhabitants don’t fully understand. For the uninitiated, these mysteries are called power-ups. 

These power-ups can be found worldwide as golden blocks with question marks. Explanations for the abilities one can gain are explained through dialogue and circumstance, which makes it feel like less of an info dump. Another mistake the  1993 Super Mario Bros. movie made was distancing itself from the source material, treating Bob-omb and mushrooms as accessories. The Super Mario Bros. Movie embraces them, placing them front and center as a commonly used world resource. It allows for some amazing scenes in which the characters engage in brawls reminiscent of Super Smash Bros.

Bad Reviews for The Super Mario Bros.

Critics may not like the movie, but their opinions don’t matter. As my mom used to say, “Money talks, bullsh*t walks.” The animated film continues gaining popularity and exposure through box office success and word of mouth. Chris Pratt made Mario a relatable hero viewers want to root for with his never-give-up attitude, driven by a desire to save his little brother, Luigi (Charlie Day). I wasn’t a big fan of how Luigi was portrayed, but I’m sure there are plans for him to be redeemed. Jack Black turned Bowser into a rockstar. The King of the Koopas is extremely violent; saying things like, “I’m going to kill…” caught me off guard. 

However, his comedic musical numbers balance out his sinister side. There are even articles about the songPeaches” being eligible for an Oscar nomination. The Super Mario Bros. Movie is a fun experience. It’s not meant to be an origin story of when they were born or a deconstruction of Mario or Luigi. Princess Peach is not a damsel in distress that is kidnapped every calendar year. She has combat training and agency. She cares for the Mushroom Kingdom and is prepared to fight for it. 

It’s unclear what bloggers and critics were expecting. Despite how much people love Super Mario Bros. video games, we must remember they were created for a particular demographic, kids. Sure, adults can enjoy them, but they shouldn’t look at them through the lens of hit series like HBO’s The Last of Us. Those review-bombing the movie portrayed it as propaganda that violates consent and promotes “toxic masculinity.” It’s complete nonsense and horrible journalism. 

You don’t have to be a gamer to enjoy The Super Mario Bros. Movie. It’s a great adventure modeled around the traditional Hero’s Journey. There are plenty of action, humor, and emotional moments. Every character is given more personality and depth than the video game counterparts. I am excited about what Nintendo will develop next from its huge library of characters. The Super Mario Bros. Movie gets a 9 out of 10. Check it out yourself, then share your thoughts in the comment section. 

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