The new Super Mario Bros. movie shines for what it is

Benjamin Yeargin, Managing Editor

When I first heard about “The Super Mario Bros. Movie,” I was hesitant. I didn’t have high hopes for Illumination Entertainment to make an enjoyable movie about the beloved video game franchise, given that they are responsible for “Rich Minion” by Yeat.

The movie proved me wrong.

Sure, there were parts of “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” that were subpar, like Seth Rogen’s not-so authentic Donkey Kong performance and the lack of adequate cameos from some of my favorite characters in the “Super Mario Bros.” universe like Wario, Waluigi and Funky Kong.

I came out of the movie satisfied with what it was: a movie enjoyable for those who’ve spent countless hours playing Mario-themed video games. It’s not a Citizen Kane-level masterpiece — nor will it make you think — but it’s an hour and a half of mindless enjoyment.

The film hit the box office on April 5 to massive success. According to the Hollywood Reporter, it grossed a combined $238.5 million in its first two weekends of release, and it’s on pace to be the third movie since the pandemic to break $1 billion worldwide.

The most striking thing about the movie was the plot. You’d think a movie about the Mario Bros. would be the conventional Mario (Chris Pratt) and Luigi (Charlie Day) saving Peach (Anya Taylor-Joy) and defeating Bowser (Jack Black). Half of that plot is true.

Peach was not a damsel in distress. Instead, she helped Mario train to defeat Bowser and accompanied him on his journey to save Luigi from King Koopa. Peach made her own decisions and ruled the Mushroom Kingdom with help from Toad (Keegan-Michael Key).

The flick included elements of most Mario games, including the famous “Mario Kart” franchise, and the games titled “New Super Mario Bros.” As someone who grew up playing “Mario Kart Wii” and still considers himself good at the game, it’s nice to see the creators giving a nod to the franchise and its most notorious course, “Rainbow Road.”

The movie’s A-list celebrities — Pratt, Day, Taylor-Joy, Key and Black — all gave good performances, though some were more memorable than others.

Black’s performance was easily the best. His ballad for Princess Peach, appropriately titled “Peaches,” became a meme and showed why Black shines in nearly everything he does: commitment. 

He committed himself entirely to the role of Bowser and nearly everyone I talked to loved it. Like Black, I felt Key put his all into playing Toad and it paid off. It’s special to see actors devote so much care into playing fictional characters.

Going into the movie, critics heavily scrutinized Pratt’s voice for Mario based on the trailer.

“Chris Pratt’s Mario voice is watered down to an upsetting degree,” Distractify’s Bianca Piazza wrote on Oct. 7.

In order to please such a vast audience, Pratt had to nail the voice. Although he didn’t nail it, I was pleasantly surprised by his vocal performance.

To fully understand Pratt’s performance, you need context. In the movie, Mario and Luigi are two plumbers from Brooklyn, New York, who are cast off into the Mushroom Kingdom and a Bowser-inhabited island, respectively.

His mixture of the Brooklyn accent and Charles Martinet’s voice for Mario made a more realistic and relatable character than just the caricature we grew up on.

Speaking of Martinet — the original voice of Mario — it nearly made me tear up when I heard his voice on the big screen. Illumination Entertainment made the classy move to cast the man who voiced so many childhoods in the blockbuster movie.

The one character I didn’t find too memorable was Mario’s taller, greener counterpart, Luigi. Besides not being in the majority of the 92 minute runtime, I felt that Day rarely captured the essence of Luigi, the cowardly lion of the “Super Mario Bros.” franchise.

However, Pratt and Day nailed the certain nuances of Mario’s “Yahoo” or “Mama Mia” or Luigi’s “Yay” that partly made up for the downsides of their respective performances.

I felt the score was incredibly well done too. The musical motifs common throughout the series intermittently showed up in the film, and made me smile while calling back to my childhood when I heard them.

“The Super Mario Bros. Movie” will bring about a plethora of nostalgia, make you smile and leave you thinking about the days you spent playing Mario games. I give it four power stars out of five.