Super Mario Movie Smashes Expectations


A poster for thee Super Mario Bros. Movie. Photo provided by Wikimedia Commons.

Splendid. Magnificent. Masterful.

While these are not words I would use to describe the newest installment in Nintendo’s bestselling franchise, The Super Mario Bros. Movie is undoubtedly a fun and welcome addition to the Mario universe.

Directed by Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic, the movie’s first look was met with general disappointment by fans everywhere. With an unpopular Chris Pratt cast as the voice of Mario, many Mario enthusiasts were quick to dismiss the movie as a whole, labeling it as another cash-grab by powerhouse corporations.

I must admit, I also had low expectations going into the film. I expected it to be unoriginal and a line-by-line repeat of game dialogue and plot with low-quality voice acting.

Honestly, I had no plans to even see it until a friend sent me a teaser clip: a music video for a song performed by Bowser (Jack Black) during the film. The song was so moving that I purchased tickets immediately.

The plot was relatively predictable: plumber brothers Mario and Luigi (Charlie Day) find themselves landing in two different worlds, the Mushroom Kingdom and the Dark Lands respectively. With the help of Toad (Keegan Michael Key), Mario must rescue his brother and join the fearless Princess Peach (Anya Taylor Joy) on her quest to save her kingdom from Bowser, who wields the power of the Super Star.

I would definitely say that the movie was carried by its voice acting. With a predictable plot and slightly above-average screenwriting, a movie like this is made or broken by the performance of its actors, and I’m pleased to report that the acting was amazing.

The entire cast delivered great performances, with Chris Pratt subverting the negative expectations set for him with a surprisingly strong performance. While I’m disappointed by the lack of Mario’s signature accent (although we did get a couple of minutes of it at the beginning of the film), I was pleasantly surprised by his performance.

Jack Black gave the strongest performance of the talented cast as Bowser, taking the line between funny and menacing and using it as a jump rope through the entire film. Seth Rogan as Donkey Kong turned out to be a good casting choice as well— I was pleasantly surprised by how well he fit the character.

One thing I really liked about the movie was how it reversed the damsel in distress trope that usually defines a Mario installment. After all, the original game’s objective is to rescue Princess Peach from Bowser’s lair, so it was interesting to see Peach in the role of a hero instead of the beautiful woman waiting to be rescued.

While they did seem to meld her character with that of Princess Daisy (who did not appear in the film), replacing her more feminine traits with the toughness and tomboy tendencies of Daisy, I really enjoyed this new take on the girly Princess.

I also liked the lack of pressure applied to a romantic relationship between her and Mario. It was refreshing to see a film that didn’t make the romance between characters a subplot.

The movie’s humor, while predictable, was very enjoyable. Was it laugh-so-hard-you-cry funny? No. But I did laugh out loud at some points, especially during Bowser’s scenes.

Finally, I’d like to broach the subject of the film’s score. Normally I wouldn’t be commenting on the music of a film like this, but the movie’s music was so well picked and performed that I had to mention it. It perfectly conveyed the sense of each scene, ranging from wonderment to dread and terror. And the use of songs such as “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC, “Holding Out for a Hero” by Bonnie Tyler, and “Take On Me” by A-ha was beautifully timed and executed.

Overall, would I recommend this movie for an Oscar un-ironically? Probably not. But I would absolutely recommend it for a fun weekend plan with friends.