It’s a-mid: “Super Mario Bros. disappoints

“The Super Mario Bros. Movie” is the latest feature from Illumination, the studio responsible for “Despicable Me,” “The Lorax” and the creation of the Minions, a pop culture epidemic we are unfortunately still living through. Released on April 5, 2023 to a lukewarm consensus from critics, the film still managed to rake in almost $400 million on opening weekend, making it the largest opening for an animated film in history. While the film is certainly lucrative, reactions between general audiences and critics have vastly differed. The film is jam-packed with countless references to the different Mario video games that the feature is based on, which is an aspect that I’m sure any fan will love. Ultimately, the movie struggles to be anything more than a thinly-plotted and conventional video game adaptation for children.

The movie follows the adventures of Mario Mario and his brother, Luigi Mario, as they navigate through the Mushroom Kingdom. I would normally continue with a more detailed plot synopsis, but tragically, “Mario Bros.” doesn’t have much plot to speak of. Everything in the film feels like a sugar rush, attempting to stuff as many references and easter eggs into the scenes as possible, which unfortunately leads to a terribly-paced movie. It goes by incredibly fast, without allowing for scenes of much-needed character development or worldbuilding. For how many locations the movie includes, none of them feel very fleshed out or lived-in, which is because no time is spent on examining their inner workings.

Another seemingly divisive aspect is the casting. The movie features the voices of Chris Pratt, Charlie Day, Anya Taylor-Joy and Jack Black. Aside from Jack Black, who gives an unequivocally outstanding performance as Bowser, the rest of the voices are a mixed bag. Charlie Day’s Luigi and Seth Rogen’s Donkey Kong are okay, but it was extremely hard for me to hear anything but those actors for the majority of the runtime. Anya Taylor-Joy seemed to snooze through her performance as Princess Peach, and Chris Pratt did not end up beating the celebrity voice actor allegations, as he is tragically confused in his role as Mario. He continually switches accents from New York to Italian to just plain old Chris Pratt, and seems to be scared in the recording booth. Pratt is miscast, and the film suffers as a result.

Despite the poor script, the film does have a nice look to it. The animation is extremely polished and colorful, with the environments being especially appealing to look at. Additionally, the original score by Brian Tyler brilliantly weaves in the classic music of the games with his personal compositions seamlessly. It is a shame that the film seems less interested in utilizing this aspect and more interested in forcefully shoving in as many ear-bleeding pop songs as humanly possible.

In all, the “Mario Bros.” movie is a mixed bag. I suppose I get tired of the excuse that “it’s just for kids.” Nobody says that when a really good kids movie succeeds, so I do not think it is fair to make that excuse anymore. Based on the discourse surrounding this film, I believe that the best lesson to take away is the idea that it is okay for people to have differing opinions. Nobody is wrong for liking or not liking a movie. Especially if it’s “The Super Mario Bros. Movie.”