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April 5, 2023 / Universal Pictures Canada

Starring: Chris Pratt, Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Day, Jack Black, Keegan-Michael Key, Seth Rogen, Fred Armisen, Sebastian Maniscalco, Charles Martinet, Kevin Michael Richardson

Directed By: Aaron Horvath, Michael Jelenic

Directed by Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic (collaborators on Teen Titans Go!, Teen Titans Go! To the Movies) from a screenplay by Matthew Fogel (The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part, Minions: The Rise of Gru), the film stars Chris Pratt as Mario, Anya Taylor-Joy as Princess Peach, Charlie Day as Luigi, Jack Black as Bowser, Keegan-Michael Key as Toad, Seth Rogen as Donkey Kong, Fred Armisen as Cranky Kong, Kevin Michael Richardson as Kamek and Sebastian Maniscalco as Spike.

Written By Darren

Rating 4 out of 5

The Super Mario Bros. Movie delivers all the video game goodness that Nintendo fans could want from a plethora of Easter Eggs hidden throughout the film, a strong and talented voice cast bringing to life these timeless characters, gorgeous animation and a musical score that gives Mario the long overdue cinematic treatment he deserves.

Like so many, I grew up playing the Mario and Nintendo video games. Whether it was Super Mario 64, Mario Kart: Double Dash, Super Mario Sunshine, Luigi’s Mansion, or Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Mario and his friends were a staple of my childhood. For better or worse, the live action Mario film is what it is, but Illumination and Nintendo have finally delivered a deserving big screen outing for one of the most popular video game characters of all time. The film may be structured to appeal to younger audiences, but with all the Nintendo nostalgia and Easter Eggs sprinkled throughout the film, there is more than enough to win over Mario fans of all ages in The Super Mario Bros. Movie.

Mario and Luigi have gone out on their own, creating their own plumbing business to service Brooklyn. But after trying to stop a massive water main burst, Mario and Luigi find themselves transported to a wondrous and foreign world called the Mushroom Kingdom. There, they meet new and strange creatures and join forces with Princess Peach to protect the Mushroom Kingdom from the evil Bowser, who is on a quest to dominate and rule the peaceful world.

From the second the film begins, there is a rush of nostalgia and Easter Eggs galore for previous iterations of the Mario videogames and other popular Nintendo series. Whether it be the Super Mario Bros. Rap from the animated Mario series, a Star Fox figurine hinting, various characters, locations and power ups that Mario encounters throughout the game; or even subtle references such as Diddy Kong have a set of bongos referencing the Nintendo GameCube’s Donkey Konga, each scene is loaded with references for fans to find. Many of the references are woven seamlessly into the film’s story or the action sequences, such as the Rainbow Road set piece during the film’s second act which captures the battle techniques of Mario Kart, or many of the power ups Mario uses throughout the film. The result is a film that can only be described as a love letter to the fans, rather than acting as blatantly obvious product placement.

Visually speaking, the film is a marvelous achievement! The animation is stunning, rivalving the standard set by some of the best animated films from the likes of Pixar and Disney Animation, while at the same time making this feel like a Mario video game playing out on the big screen. The vibrant colours pop off the screen, bringing to life the wondrous world of the Mushroom Kingdom with rich detail to create the most visually beautiful Mario iteration you have ever experienced.

Yes, the story itself is fairly simplistic and could have used some more developed character arcs, especially for Mario who has little development over the course of the film. Even knowing that this film is aimed at younger audiences, there could have been some more depth to the story at play as it is to impart some important lessons in animation, just look at any Pixar film. But, where the film’s screenplay does succeed is in capturing the video game aspect of Mario’s legacy. The action sequences play out like moments of the video game, whether it be the Mario Kart set piece, or Mario training to fight Bowser in an obstacle course designed like the original Mario games, the film never loses sight of the plethora of video games that paved the way for this movie. Plus, the film’s sound effects mimic the video games to evoke that sense of childhood wonder in viewers as they reminisce of their favourite Mario gaming experiences while watching the film.

While lots of criticisms were drawn from the voice casting of the film, overall the performances are great. Despite the distinctive lack of Italian accents throughout the film minus key moments, Chris Pratt makes for a strong Mario. He makes the character his own, capturing what Mario would sound like without the over zealous Italian accent, while still distinguishing it enough from his own voice. Anya Taylor-Joy is a standout as Princess Peach, creating an incredibly strong and positive female hero for young audiences that is going to have an entirely new generation falling in love with her character. Jack Black is pitch perfect as Bowser, capturing the sinister nature of the character with a levity that matches the comedic tone of the film. Charlie Day is outstanding as Luigi, creating the most memorable characters of the film that deserves his own spinoff film (come on Luigi’s Mansion spin-off film!), while Keegan-Michael Key is unrecognizable and a true tour de force as Toad, delivering some of the standout moments of the film. Despite enjoying Seth Rogen as Donkey Kong, there is nothing unique to the voice performance; it is Rogen being Rogen as Donkey Kong, but it works.

Though, there is no doubt in my mind what was my favourite part of the film: Brian Tyler’s musical score. For decades, the Mario video games have had some great musical themes, and Tyler’s score assembles them and gives them the true symphonic arrangement they have long been deserving of. Every time Tyler lets the score loose on the film, it’s a full sounded, triumphant, tour de force sound that energizes the entire film that had me humming along, leaving a massive smile on my face throughout the film. While 2023 has been off to a slow start for musical scores, and despite the majority of the music not being original, Tyler’s work here is one of the most notable musical scores of the year so far.

It may be easy to focus too much on the shortcomings of this film, but the overall experience is everything Mario fans could want and quickly makes you forget about what are at the end of the day minor nitpicks. Loaded with Easter Eggs galore in a visually stunning display that creates a cinematic version of the beloved video game world, The Super Mario Bros. Movie evokes childhood memories with its video game influenced action and great voice cast, but it is Brian Tyler’s musical score that truly energizes the film to create a crowd pleasing experience!

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