Woo! Yah! Wahoo!
You probably read that in his voice, didn’t you?
Here we go again. Another video game movie. That means it’s time to roll our eyes and get the cheapest movie ticket we can because this one is probably gonna suck. Video game movies have a storied history of stinking to high heavens, so this one would be no different, right? Right?
Wrong. The Super Mario Bros Movie is actually a bucket of fun.
I don’t know what movie some of these critics watched, because I don’t know how anyone could walk out of this movie without a goofy smile on their face. We know this isn’t trying to be The Godfather or Citizen Kane—it’s Super freaking Mario! It never set out to be anything more than a fun family movie, and in that department, it checks all the boxes.
Let’s get one thing out of the way—the voice acting isn’t bad. There were a lot of complaints about the casting leading up to this movie, but once you’re in it, there aren’t any performances that detract from the experience. Everyone is passable or better, but Jack Black totally steals the show as Bowser. This will be considered another one of his iconic roles beside Nacho Libre and that obnoxious rocker from School of Rock.
The references are also going to delight Mario fans. Thankfully, they don’t slow down the plot. Nods to Mario Kart and even Super Smash Bros are woven into the story in a way that feels meaningful, so they’re rarely self-indulgent. And there are a ton more references packed into the nooks and crannies if you’re looking. Mario nerds will catch them, but others probably won’t.
The animation is beautiful. The colors, the action sequences, the effects… this is probably Illumination’s best looking film to date. It’s clear that the animators had an affection for the source material and utilized it to its full advantage. Our eyeballs are blessed because of it.
Lastly, thank you to Illumination and Nintendo for making sure Charles Martinet got some kind of role in this film. He’s been the video game voice of Super Mario for nearly thirty years, and he has a few lines as Mario’s uncle at the beginning of the film. He uses Mario’s video game voice for the character, so you’ll recognize him right away. I found myself smiling and saying “It’s Charles!” when I heard him.
Some of the references do cross into feeling self-indulgent, so they’ll zip over the heads of non-gamers. But even then, the film is still very approachable. That’s the only bad thing I can think to say about this film. It works and it’s fun like a knockoff Nerf gun, but it’s not going to be hailed as a cinematic masterpiece. Did it need to be a masterpiece, though? Not really.
The Super Mario Bros Movie is one of the rare examples of a video game movie done right. It never set out to be anything more than what it is, and that’s just fine. It’s fun, fast, colorful, with delightful moments that’ll make you laugh out loud. And if you’re a Nintendo nerd, you’ll notice tons of references that’ll make a smile touch your earlobes.
Overall Score: 8/10