The Super Mario Bros. Movie (Animation, Adventure) [Based on Videogame] (2023)
Director: Aaron Horvath, Michael Jelenic, Pierre Leduc
Writer: Matthew Fogel
Stars: Chris Pratt, Charlie Day, Anya Taylor-Joy, Jack Black
An iconic duo of Italian-American plumbers form a company as they move out to help fix a major water leak downtown. In their efforts, they lose their way within the sewers falling in a magical warp pipe, dropping them within the Mushroom Kingdom, where a Koopa king tries to unite his torrid lands with the lush ruling princess' realm.
Based on the famous Nintendo video game franchise, several directors, alongside writer Matthew Fogel re-create the Mario universe and its many locations. Having ample experience between them with animation films such as the "Despicable Me" franchise and animated DC shows, they're set to create an adaptation capturing the magic of Shigeru Miyamoto's brainchild. Nintendo and Mario's creator worked closely as producers to provide a faithful presentation in film form. "The Super Mario Bros. Movie" was produced by Universal Pictures, Illumination, and Nintendo itself while distributed by Universal Pictures as well.
Having just filmed their first commercial, the brothers Mario (Chris Pratt) and Luigi (Charlie Day) are excited to form their own plumbing company, to the disapproval of their father (Charles Martinet). Receiving their first task seems relatively simple, yet it doesn't quite go as planned due to a pesky pet. Still, the Italian-American duo donning their iconic uniforms aren't going to let that prevent them from their dreams. Once they hear of a massive water main leak on the news while eating dinner with family, they head out to the inner city, hopping down into the sewers to release the water pressure. In their attempt, they stumble upon a hidden sewer section, accidentally landing in a warp pipe that transports them both to different lands of a magical world where an evil turtle-like king called Bowser (Jack Black) aims to marry Princess Peach (Anya Taylor-Joy). Mario assists Peach while searching for and trying to rescue his beloved brother Luigi.
From honest intentions to dire circumstances, "The Super Mario Bros. Movie" is inspired by the beloved video game property known by all. Forming a script to fit a screenplay and telling a tale of a traditional battle of good and evil with a barrel of laughs in between.
During my childhood, even slightly before I was born, cinema received a film called "Super Mario Bros.". It was based upon a then already famous video game series by the same name. While somewhat of a cult classic at this point, when it came out, it was regarded as an utter financial failure. But many years later, there's a new "Super Mario Bros." movie, taking the animated route instead of live-action, a wise choice. With a star-studded cast, it might just become one of cinematic history's best interpretations of a classic videogame franchise.
Basing a film on the well-established franchise is a gargantuan task, almost as large as King Koopa himself, voiced by the charismatic singer of Tenacious D, Jack Black. Similar to many other videogame interpretations, "The Super Mario Bros. Movie" makes Mario and Luigi inhabit a fictional version of Brooklyn nodding to Mario's canon profession of being a plumber. Our first introduction to him and his brother Luigi is them speaking in accents you'd expect, a potential nod to Pratt and Day initially electing for something similar. An excellent way to set the tone before the voice actors are shown sounding more or less like the actors themselves. Furthermore, voicework is as expected with standouts such as Toad (Keegan-Michael Key) and the aforementioned King Koopa Bowser (Jack Black). There's also Seth Rogan voicing Donkey Kong and a myriad of others. Preferring a more comical or traditional voice for Mario and his cohorts, this voice cast asserts as the definition of Hollywood; it almost surprised me that Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson isn't among the voice cast.
If we're taking a peek at the animation itself, while not quite reaching the heights of Disney/Pixar, it does incredibly well, a colourful world which is nicely animated by the folks at Illumination who've worked on an assortment of Universal Studios animation films. Most scenes contain some reference from anywhere within the massively grown catalogue of power-ups, kingdoms, and such. They are further established with a soundtrack heavily nodding to the music heard in levels and locations throughout the series. Entertaining for the handful of individuals unknown with Mario's universe, but certainly with extra loving care and attention to aspects of the original video games.
It didn't take long for the Nintendo nerd within me to see further possibilities. We've had a sequel to "The Lego Movie", so if licensing allows, it would be a no-brainer for Mario to receive more silver-screen love. Even spin-offs such as "Luigi's Mansion" or "Mario Kart", the latter being already shown in parts within this iteration.
So, before this review reaches two pages in length… I'm honestly of the opinion that this animated project sets a tone and a standard for direct adaptations of known video games. Some, like "Wreck-It-Ralph", might still be far above others. Then again, that wasn't directly based on any property but rather a mishmash of gaming culture. In this case, we're provided with an example exceeding the likes of "Sonic: The Hedgehog", in my opinion, grounding a videogame character within his own world rather than something familiar to us. Technically, it does a similar thing, but most of it takes place within the Mario universe, so I'm calling it close enough.
In terms of progression, it moves rather quickly, only lasting about an hour and a half. While I would've loved an extended version, which I'm convinced is coming out at some point, the pacing isn't nearly as bad as other films, and it stands up straight, never really losing engagement with the viewer. Is perfection achieved, probably not... This Mario-themed film is quite effective at what it does, better than most videogame film adaptations, but at the same time, feeling slightly watered-down to attract non-gaming audiences as well.