The Super Mario Bros. Movie review: This faithful adaptation often feels like a cutscene

Since the last cinematic outing of Mario and Luigi in 1993’s Super Mario Bros., both movies and video games have undergone significant transformations. While the earlier adaptation took creative liberties with the source material, the latest Super Mario Bros. Movie aims for a more faithful representation of Nintendo’s beloved franchise, resulting in a film that often resembles an extended cutscene.

Directed by Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic, known for their work on Teen Titans Go! To The Movies, the new animated feature follows twin brothers Mario (voiced by Chris Pratt) and Luigi (voiced by Charlie Day) as they navigate a fantastical realm after being transported from their Brooklyn home. In this alternate world, they encounter familiar faces like the warlord Bowser (voiced by Jack Black) and Princess Peach (voiced by Anya Taylor-Joy), who are embroiled in a conflict over control of the Mushroom Kingdom.

While Luigi finds himself captured by Bowser’s forces, Mario allies with Peach and her loyal Toads to resist Bowser’s tyranny. The film sets the stage for an epic adventure that promises to capture the essence of Nintendo’s iconic games while delivering a fresh cinematic experience for fans old and new.

The Super Mario Bros. Movie

In a refreshing departure from traditional portrayals, The Super Mario Bros. Movie reimagines its iconic characters with modern twists. Princess Peach emerges as a formidable and independent leader, far from the typical damsel in distress trope. She’s portrayed as a skilled warrior-ruler, reminiscent of protagonists for the Rey generation, taking charge to defend her kingdom and its inhabitants from Bowser’s threats, while Mario’s primary concern is rescuing his brother.

Donkey Kong, voiced by Seth Rogen, showcases a surprising depth beyond his brawny exterior. He grapples with familial expectations and a desire for paternal approval, akin to the complex dynamics seen in characters like Succession’s Kendall Roy.

Jack Black’s portrayal of Bowser adds layers to the antagonist, portraying him as a lovesick bully whose misguided affections for Peach manifest in his invasive actions. Black’s performance, drawing from his experience in the Kung Fu Panda franchise, shines through Bowser’s comical yet earnest attempts to express his feelings through parody songs, showcasing the actor’s unique talents.

The Super Mario Bros. Movie

In a clever blend of classic Mario gameplay and nods to other popular titles, The Super Mario Bros. Movie offers a delightful mix of nostalgia and modern gaming culture. As Peach and Mario gear up to confront Bowser, they embark on a journey reminiscent of traditional Super Mario games, complete with power-up mushrooms and daring leaps across familiar landscapes. Yet, the film also draws inspiration from Super Smash Bros., portraying Peach as a formidable fighter akin to her prowess in the iconic crossover game.

Moreover, the movie pays homage to Mario Kart with an exhilarating race against Bowser’s minions down Rainbow Road, adding a playful twist to the adventure. With its consistent computer-animated style and a runtime of just 90 minutes, The Super Mario Bros. Movie delivers a fun and lighthearted experience that leaves audiences entertained. However, amidst the excitement, one can’t help but wonder if the thrill of playing a Mario game together might offer an even more enjoyable experience.

 

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