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Super Mario Bros. back in action

Ever since the success of ‘Lara Croft: Tomb Raider’ making US$275 million at the box office back in 2001, it has felt that Hollywood has realised that the gamer’s buck is one worth chasing. The only issue during that time is that ‘good’ movies based on video games have been incredibly difficult to make. While some – like ‘Resident Evil’ and ‘Unchartered’ seem to have won people over – there have been myriad covers that have been universally caned for either not capturing the game properly or even just being a ‘bad’ film.

By David Griffiths

Saturday 8 April 2023, 11:00AM

Chris Pratt is the voice of Mario in The Super Mario Bros. Movie (2023). Image: IMDb

Chris Pratt is the voice of Mario in The Super Mario Bros. Movie (2023). Image: IMDb

With that in mind you have to consider that Nintendo’s move to make The Super Mario Bros. Movie is a pretty brave one. On one hand you have one of the most popular video game franchises, which should ensure an audience for the film, but on the other hand that means there are a lot of gamers out there expecting perfection from this film… and they already had one false start with the woeful 1993 film adaption of the games, which only manage to save face because it has slowly become a cult favourite over the years.

Directed by the team that brought us the brilliant Teen Titans Go! To The Movies – Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic – The Super Mario Bros. Movie begins in New York with Mario (voiced by Chris Pratt – The Guardians of the Galaxy) and Luigi (Charlie Day – The Lego Movie) trying to set up their own plumbing business – despite everybody including their parents telling them they should give up on the dream.

When a major sewer emergency suddenly occurs Mario leaps into action, deciding that this is the moment where the brothers can prove their worth. However, instead they find themselves sucked down a supernatural pipe and into a strange new land. Mario finds himself in the beautiful Kingdom ruled by Princess Peach (Anya Taylor-Joy – The Witch), and Luigi finds himself in the Badlands and soon a prisoner of the evil Bowser (Jack Black – School Of Rock), who is planning on world domination, even if that means crushing everyone in his way.

There is a lot to like about The Super Mario Bros. Movie. It is bright, it is flashy and it has some pretty decent action sequences mixed in with humour, but the film does have an obvious weakness – it feels like it is aimed at a younger market, which might make some of the older gamers who have grown up playing the Mario Bros. games feel a little awkward in the cinema.

To be honest there is a lot more to like about this film than what there is to dislike. The plot, although thin, does hold up and the screenplay, written by Matthew Fogel (Minions: The Rise Of Gru), brings in some really important lessons for the younger audience members. Plots revolving around things like never giving up on your dreams and always being there for your friends are never a bad thing to have in a movie. There are also plenty of laughs to be had throughout the movie especially once Mario meets up with Donkey Kong (Seth Rogen – Superbad); and to be honest it is the relationship between those two that holds the audience’s interest once the action pieces begin to become a little mundane.

One of the things that Matthew Fogel does need to be congratulated on is the fact that he turns the story around a little. This could have easily have become the stereotypical Mario and Luigi are sent to rescue the damsel in distress plot, but instead Fogel reimagines that with Luigi being the character in danger Princess Peach becoming a kick-ass heroine determined to not only rescue him but to save her Kingdom – it is a nice touch that works well.

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By now you have probably heard the buzz online about the voice cast attached to the film. While Chris Pratt and Charlie Day may not have been the ‘ideal’ choices to voice Mario and Luigi, they do an okay job with what they have been given to work with. The big winners in that department are Seth Rogen and Jack Black. Rogen takes the character of Donkey Kong and runs with it. Not only does he have fun with it but it feels like he totally becomes the much-loved character. Likewise, it seems that Jack Black was given free rein with the character of Bowser, and the result is something kind of special – with some songs thrown in to make use of Black’s musical talents as well.

Is The Super Mario Bros. Movie a great film? No. Is it worth going to see? Yes. While it is obvious that the movie is aimed at the younger gamers out there, those older members of the audience who have grown up playing the games all their lives will find enough Easter eggs throughout the film to keep them happy, but they may find themselves wishing there was a little more to the plot at times. One hot tip though – make sure you stick around for after the credits because one of those Easter eggs hints at something pretty special for the sequel.

The Super Mario Bros. Movie is currently screening in Phuket and the film is rated ‘G’

2.5/5 Stars

David Griffiths has been working as a film and music reviewer for over 20 years. That time has seen him work in radio, television and in print. You can follow him at www.facebook.com/subcultureentertainmentaus 

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