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The Super Mario Bros. Movie Has Critics And Audiences Totally Split

"The Super Mario Bros. Movie" has been a divisive proposition ever since it was first announced. Video game movies don't exactly have the best track record, particularly where Hollywood and Mario are concerned. Even though the last few years have given fans reason to believe that video game adaptations are more consistent now, various factors cast a shadow of doubt over Mario's latest big budget adventure. Can Chris Pratt make for a compelling Mario? Is it possible to cram this many Easter eggs into one movie and still maintain cohesion? Is Jack Black's Bowser as cool as we all want him to be? What the heck is up with Dry Bones, anyway? 

The answers to most of those questions finally arrive as "The Super Mario Bros. Movie" hits theaters this week. Ahead of the movie's wide release, early reviews of the film have begun to post online, painting a very interesting picture. As the film's current Rotten Tomatoes score can attest, there is a strong divide between audience and critic ratings. 

One of the most telling reviews hails from VGC, which both hailed it as "the best video game film ever," yet also noted that the movie doesn't really ever step out of its comfort zone. Bex April May writes, "Cinematically, 'The Super Mario Bros. Movie' doesn't do anything particularly unexpected or advance the art of cinema. But as a faithful adaptation of the games, we're okay with that, and your kids will be too." The Verge's review concurred with these points, noting the movie's "cheesy nostalgia plays" and oodles of in-jokes and Easter eggs. 

However, what works for some folks may not necessarily land for others. Read on to find out what people are making of "The Super Mario Bros. Movie."

Lots of fan service, but not much plot

The extreme amounts of fan service seem to have been warmly received by most longtime franchise fans who have already seen the movie. Early responses to the movie have mentioned that each and every frame is bursting with recognizable imagery and NPCs that will no doubt have fans pointing at the screen and nudging their friends in the theater. SVG's own review pointed to the game callbacks as one of the movie's strong points – but some reviews have found this element to be off-putting. Iconography from the games frequently pops up with little to nothing in the way of explanation, which is fine for some and annoying for others. For better or worse, this is a movie made explicitly for the fans.

This approach has not worked for many other reviewers, with some feeling like the film is chock full of everything that doesn't work in other video game adaptations. Paul Attard of Slant Magazine remarked, "Far too often, "The Super Mario Bros. Movie" feels like it's simply content to check off to-do notes and scratch the viewer's nostalgia itch. That is, the film is a series of Easter eggs in search of a story." The simplicity of the plot has been a knock in many positive reviews, with a number of critics who enjoyed the movie overall feeling like it's a bit lacking in substance. For instance, in the LA Times' review, Katie Walsh described the movie as "stretch[ing] a series of gameplay sequences across a barely there hero's journey story."

The Super Mario Bros. Movie's cast is mostly great

After all of the huffing and puffing over the film's casting decisions, it does sound like most of the folks on board acquit themselves well. Jack Black's Bowser and Keegan Michael-Key's Toad have been singled out as the MVPs of the film in multiple reviews, with both of them getting a chance to showcase their musical talents. Seth Rogen's Donkey Kong has been similarly praised, even as most critics acknowledge that he's not altering his voice in the slightest to play this part. Somehow, it works.

Chris Pratt and Charlie Day's performances have been a bit more divisive, however. Many reviews feel that Pratt's performance is inoffensive, but isn't as lively as others in the film. Others have commented on the inconsistency in his line delivery, with Looper's Reuben Baron writing, "Pratt's Mario sounds gruff one minute and like Linda Belcher the next." Most critics seem to lean on the side of Charlie Day's performance being adequate, but have noted that the character doesn't much screen time or a real chance to make an impression in this outing. Overall, however, critics and fans seem a bit lukewarm on the titular brothers.

"The Super Mario Bros. Movie" appears to be better than many nervous fans were expecting, but your mileage may vary wildly. Judging from the Rotten Tomatoes score, it looks like general audiences are going to have a fun time with this one, especially if they have a strong attachment to the games. Other viewers may be left wanting more.