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The Super Mario Bros. Movie Review: A Whole New World 1-1

  • Crams in so many Easter eggs and references that long-time fans will love
  • A great entry point for kids and newcomers to the franchise
  • Sets the perfect foundation for building an entire cinematic galaxy with sequels and spin-offs
  • The storyline and character development are pretty thin, but it doesn't take anything at all away from the overall incredible experience

Mild spoilers ahead for "The Super Mario Bros. Movie."

"The Super Mario Bros. Movie" doesn't have to do much at all to immediately grab your attention. From the second the brothers make their pixelated appearance on the silver screen, you're immediately transported back to the weekday afternoons playing your Nintendo Entertainment System and/or Super NES; the weekends spent searching for all of the secrets in "Super Mario 64"; the late nights of passing controllers back and forth with friends as you battle it out in any iteration of "Mario Kart." That same sense of nostalgia continues through the whole movie. In fact, there's rarely a moment when there's not some nod to something from the Mario franchise's 35-plus-year history — whether it be overtly or subtly showcased.


Without gushing too much, which this film is absolutely deserving of, it's these Easter egg moments that will have longtime Mario fans smiling and laughing throughout the entirety of the film's 92-minute runtime.

But what about the rest of the audience, the ones who are more or less meeting Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, Toad, Donkey Kong, Bowser, and the rest of the extensive cast of characters for the first time? Does the movie have anything to offer those viewers? Without a doubt. As much of a love letter as "The Super Mario Bros. Movie" is for longtime fans, it excels at creating an incredible introductory experience for any and all newcomers to the Nintendo icon.

No Sleep Till The Mushroom Kingdom

In "The Super Mario Bros. Movie," Mario and Luigi are your regular, run-of-the-mill plumbers trying to get their new (and struggling) Brooklyn-based business off the ground. After creating more problems than they fix, the two brothers find a hidden sewer system below the city streets (which is oddly reminiscent of the 1993 live-action film's Dinohattan), only to find a green pipe portal that transports them to a different galaxy. The brothers wind up getting separated, resulting in Mario — with the help of Peach and Toad — having to embark on a grand adventure to save Luigi. All the while, Bowser and his army of Koopas, Goombas, Shy Guys, and more embark on a conquest to rule all of the kingdoms in this galaxy, with Princess Peach being his ultimate prize.


There are plenty of odds and ends that lend a hand to the film's story, but don't expect an in-depth and detailed narrative. "The Super Mario Bros. Movie" is just coherent enough to follow along with, no matter how familiar you may be with the franchise. The film's pacing is very fast, but that's to be expected with the refreshingly short runtime — especially when compared to today's typical blockbuster duration, which edges more towards anywhere from two to three-plus hours.

There's a LOT packed into these 90-ish minutes, but it never feels chaotic or overstays its welcome in the way that kids' movies can often do. That's a credit to Illumination and the rest of the team for striking a perfect balance for its different audience personas' needs.


Cast your casting woes aside

Can there be a "The Super Mario Bros. Movie" review without a mention of the actors who lend their voice talents to the film? Not at this point. The pre-release vitriol was as unreasonable as it was pointless, because — to be blunt — every character is brought to life by the personalities behind it. Anya Taylor-Joy as Princess Peach? Flawless. Charlie Day's Luigi? Chef's kiss. Seth Rogan as Donkey Kong (who is basically just Seth Rogan)? It just makes sense.


Jack Black's Bowser is probably the toughest voice to separate from the actor, especially when he breaks into song (on multiple occasions) in the stylings of Tenacious D. However, Black portrays Bowser's fury and vulnerability perfectly, making the character stand tall on its own.

Okay, okay ... but what about the controversial casting of Chris Pratt as Mario? Well, all of the preconceived notions and dismissive opinions were wildly premature. Pratt's Brooklynite Mario works well in the context of this movie and, undoubtedly, plenty of movies to come. But don't worry. If you need to satiate the traditionalist in you, you'll hear plenty of "classic" Mario quips and one-liners — all of which receive the in-movie blessing of Charles Martinet himself. Martinet's role as Mario and Luigi's dad might even be the most perfect casting decision of them all, allowing the actor to endearingly pass the torch (Fire Flower?) for the next generation of Mario lovers.


Ready for the Super Mario Galaxy

In a recent Extra TV interview, Pratt said that the team behind this film created a movie that could launch 10 years' worth of continuations. "An entire universe," to be exact. It's hard not to believe that long-term intention after seeing "The Super Mario Bros. Movie." What wasn't fleshed out in this movie in terms of character development could very easily be done in subsequent sequels and spin-offs. It goes without saying that we might have to call it the "Super Mario" Galaxy rather than Universe (we'll leave that designation to Marvel and DC).


"The Super Mario Bros. Movie" manages to strike a perfect balance in how it presents itself to both longtime fans and the younger generation who are just starting to learn who Mario and crew are. If this film is setting the foundation for a decade (or more) of Mario movies and, potentially, other Nintendo IPs, then, well ... "Let's-a go."

In fact, let's extend that to the rest of the video game industry. When it comes to major video game adaptations over the past few years, Hollywood seems to be batting a thousand. And with the threat of comic book superhero fatigue looming, why not strike while the iron is hot? We just seem to be in the perfect era for developing video game adaptations as a new major cinematic trend.


In the meantime, though, go see "The Super Mario Bros. Movie." And bring your kids along for the fun — regardless of their level of classic Mario knowledge.