The Super Mario Bros. Movie (2023) – Cinema Review

Y/N? Yes.

Director: Aaron Horvath, Michael Jelenic & Pierre Leduc

Stars: Chris Pratt, Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Day, Jack Black & Keegan-Michael Key

Review by Damocles.


There is no denying that I have a particular bias towards Nintendo properties.

After all, my very first experience with video games, was the Nintendo 64 and the famous MarioKart 64. Ever since then, I’ve been obsessed with racing, winning and more contextually to this review, buying every single Nintendo console and playing MarioKart on all of them.

So, to see a Marios Bros movie, I was definitely eager to see whether they had done justice to what is one of the most iconic video game franchises and characters in history.

To put it simply, this is a children’s film that is light on the themes, quick on the action, faster on the plot and is almost too efficient at establishing plot beats, character motivations and set pieces.

Whilst this isn’t a bad thing, there were many moments where I wished they slowed down the movie’s pace just to dwell on some of the Easter Eggs or iconic worlds that have been bought to life. Perhaps that is my nostalgia talking though, but I felt the movie needed a tiny bit more in its runtime to really let the story breathe.

That being said, the plot of the film is as simple as it gets. Mario and Luigi end up discovering a portal to a whole new world and must stop the machinations of Bowser by aiding Princess Peach in her fight against a horrific wedding to said villain.

Yes, it’s basic, but it’s also fun to watch and sometimes, with these sort of movies, what else do you really need? It’s a classic story.

Along the way, Mario gets to explore all the diverse kingdoms that truly brings the sense of adventure that all Mario games capture so well. From the Mushroom Kingdom to the Jungle Kingdom, the movie’s animation style and dedication to the video game’s vibrant colour aesthetic and wacky design meant that at no point did the movie ever suffer from looking dull or ugly.

Praise must be given to the animation style of the film. Despite Illumination’s history with “Minions”, the studio truly captures the magic of the iconic video game aesthetic and animations. Mario’s movements are synonymous with how he plays in the game, as is Luigi, Peach, Donkey Kong, etc. It’s an incredibly pleasing movie to look at visually, for both non-gamers and gamers alike.

From an audio perspective, the early controversy over some of the casting choices were an non-issue. Every single actor bought a fun level of energy to their roles. Pratt’s voice as Mario is fine, as is Day and Taylor-Joy. However, as is evident by the amount of memes generated over his performance, it is Jack Black’s show.

He absolutely nails his performance as Bowser and the now iconic Peaches song is undeniably hilarious in the film. He brings an amazing amount of energy, menace and love-cringe into Bowser and it is stupid fun watching him steal every single scene he is in.

Credit must also be given to Brian Tyler for doing what he does best, adapting to any movie or task he is given. His versatility as a composer is always underrated and he did an amazing job in just adapting already iconic Nintendo music to the movie. I wished there were more of his compositions, as my only true gripe about the music was the bizarre use of licensed music, which I found incredibly distracting.

There is a huge library of iconic themes from the Mario franchise and I truly wished there were more of them in the movie.

In many ways, the Super Mario Bros movie is a celebration of the joy Nintendo has bought to so many gamers over the years. I kept smiling at all the references I understood and nothing could quite compare to the scene where I saw the characters make their kart. It is those little touches that made the film a joy to watch, and also makes complete sense in the context of the world.

Seamless integration of those references is a big part of why I think that video-game movies should be animated moving forward.

The success of this movie will definitely contribute to dispelling the myth surrounding the entire concept of “video-game” movies being awful, because in all honesty, this was a fun movie, it was good, it was visually appealing and there is nothing inherently wrong with it.

But back to my original point …. I cannot help but think that animation should be the standard for video-game movies moving forward, simply because cutscenes in the actual games themselves are already incredibly well made animated films. Motion capture, cinematography, acting cues, dynamic lighting, VFX use … all the essential tenets of film-making are visible in the video-game worlds, especially with their campaigns.

By creating more animated films that copy the original style, aesthetic and world of the video games, it creates a more cohesive franchise as a whole. A good example of this are the Resident Evil animated films, that still copy the games in their style.

It also allows the film-makers to not be constrained by reality, as video-games traditionally have always been a heightened version of reality. Physics, slow-motion, certain fighting moves …. all of these have always been tweaked for a gamer’s entertainment and the only place where all of those things can physically be translated well, is in animation.

This is why the Super Marios Bros. movie works, because all of the heightened reality elements, from the power-ups, to the costumes, to the movements … they all work within the world of Mario, not in a live-action sense.

But I am ranting on about something else here.

Long story short, this was a fun movie. It tickled all the right nostalgia beats for me as a life-long Nintendo fan and it didn’t overstay its welcome. So, thanks again Mario, for sparking joy in a cynic like me, because sometimes I just need to hear the iconic It’s a me! Mario! to smile after experiencing a lame day.

A scene to recall:  Every time the movie gave us the classic video-game view and we got to witness Mario doing what he does best … using Power-Ups, jumping on things and progressing his way through the level.

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