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Why Jack Black's Bowser Has Us Rooting For The Mario Villain (In A Way The Games Never Did)

It's hardly an exaggeration to say that Jack's Black's turn as Bowser, the wicked king of the Koopas, is one of the absolute highlights of "The Super Mario Bros. Movie," if not the reason for the occasion. Whereas Chris Pratt's lack of an Italian accent (for the most part) and Seth Rogen's decision to leave his voice unaltered as Donkey Kong have both been divisive, audiences and professional critics have pretty much been unanimous in their praise for the film's portrayal of Bowser. 

From the moment his casting in the role was announced, Jack Black has been going hard to show his love for the character and this universe. A gamer himself, Black has said that he instantly signed on when the part was offered to him. Since then, he's been a shining star (no pun intended) on the promotion circuit, even appearing in a bizarrely too-hot-for-TV Bowser onesie on an episode of "The Kelly Clarkson Show." Beyond his usual effervescence, however, Black also put so much of himself into this performance.

At the time of this writing, Jack Black's musical number from the film — an absolute banger of a love ballad called "Peaches" — is burning up the Billboard Hot 100 charts, marking a monumental crossover success and the first solo hit single of Black's lengthy career. And honestly, it makes total sense why audiences have embraced this temperamental dragon in such a huge way. Rather than being a snarling big bad devoid of personality, he's one of those villains that you can't wait to see pop up on screen again. In many ways, Bowser steals the whole show right out from under Mario and Luigi, making him more interesting than he's ever been in the video games that inspired the flick.

Bowser's not much of a character in the games

Far it be it from us to say that Bowser's not a great villain. The guy's been a persistent thorn in Mario's side since 1985, kidnapping princesses, stealing magic staffs, and transforming the Mushroom Kingdom's royalty into all kinds of animals and inanimate objects. He's a villain through-and-through, and many of Mario's greatest adventures never would have happened without Bowser to make mischief. Fans would be cheated out of so many fun games if Bowser wasn't around — but that doesn't mean he's a particularly interesting character.

In many of Bowser's appearances, there's not much to him outside of his intimidating appearance, guttural laugh, and proclivity for colorful vehicles and size-changing spells. Outside of some of the RPG games, players never get to see much of Bowser's interior life. This is fine when applied to the simpler narratives of the "Super Mario" video games, where Bowser is deployed as a more one-dimensional obstacle for our mustachioed hero. But for a movie in which all of the characters are given more dialogue and agency, Bowser needed to be given some gravitas.

And boy, does Jack Black deliver on that front.

Jack Black is doing the most as Bowser

Jack Black has attributed his singular approach to the character to the fact that there's a dearth of information regarding Bowser's backstory in the games. According to Black, he and the film's directors (Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic) essentially had to figure out what this guy's deal was without much of a guide. 

Black has also explained that he took some inspiration from Darth Vader when coming up with the character's growling voice. Because if you're going to play a villain, why not borrow from one of the best to ever do it? Between the character work and the fun vocal influences, Black has managed to come up with most deliciously entertaining baddies to come out of a kids' movie in quite some time.

Everything inevitably circles back around to "Peaches," though, with some outlets referring to the sequence as the very best part of the movie. Jack Black fans will be able to see his fingerprints all over the scene, and not just because he does his own singing. The track is pretty much one F-bomb away from feeling right at home on a Tenacious D record, and there's something magical about that for the adults in the audience.

Movie Bowser's also just a weird little guy

Bowser is also a great deal of fun due to how pitiable he is at times. When viewers get to see the character on his own, a softer and much more awkward side of the character comes out. This is a guy who plays piano ballads for the girl he's crushin' on, and sometimes he even gets his bros (like Kamek) to stand in for the princess so he can practice his opening lines. When he finally gets a chance to talk to Princess Peach face to face, he all but melts in her presence, telling her almost immediately about how much love he feels for her. It's oddly endearing, in a cringe-worthy sort of way.

Of course, this sweetness is significantly tainted by the fact that he plans to sacrifice her friends in a wedding ritual. Oh, and Bowser's response to being rejected at the altar is to launch a nuclear warhead that threatens to obliterate the entire kingdom. That's not exactly cute behavior, but he's so over the top in his intentions that it's basically impossible to find the character anything less than entertaining.

America has Bowser fever. Fans are already calling for "Peaches" to get an Oscar nod, so it's safe to say we haven't seen the last of Jack Black as Bowser, and that's definitely a good thing. "The Super Mario Bros. Movie" has given us a much more dynamic and compelling portrayal of this villain than the snarling, single-minded version from the games, so hopefully a sequel can serve to give us even more of a good thing.