Ever since my brain could comprehend what a video game was, I was a Mario fanboy. It started with Mario Land 2: Six Gold Coins, followed not long after by Super Mario Bros. 3, Mario Kart Double Dash, Paper Mario and the Thousand Year Door, Mario Power Tennis, Super Mario Galaxy, and as I got older I got acquainted with a lot more of the games from the classics to the newer titles. Mario was my favorite thing ever and I always dreamed of a Mario movie coming to fruition. And you know, it did, which confused the hell out of lil ol me upon watching. This obviously wasn’t good enough. I needed something faithful to the source material that took advantage of the colorful, vibrant world of the games. It took decades, but a movie like that has finally come around, and I only wish 10 year old me could’ve seen it.
But, a movie like this kind of pulls me in two different directions. Do I review it as a lifelong Mario fan, or as a lover of movies? I’m going to attempt to do both and be as honest as I can with my feelings. And at the end of the day, this is a movie for children, so don’t get too hung up on mine or anyone’s feelings about this movie.
The Super Mario Bros. Movie is a 90 minute love letter to the character and world Nintendo has built upon for decades. The team behind the film seems like they’re obviously fans, as they display a pretty great appreciation for the characters, the music and the history of the franchise. While it gets so much about adapting the aesthetics of the game right, it’s a very, very bare bones movie. The story and characters are about as simple as they can be, which is a little disappointing even if the franchise isn’t exactly known for coherent stories. It essentially means that if you have no real connection to this franchise, you’re not really going to see a point in a film like this.
Mario and Luigi are two plumber brothers from Brooklyn who find themselves sucked into the crazy world of the Mushroom Kingdom. When Luigi is captured by Bowser, an imposing monster looking to destroy the Mushroom Kingdom, Mario must team up with the Mushroom Kingdom’s monarch, Princess Peach, to save his brother and this new fantastical world.
A very straightforward plot that shouldn’t come as a surprise given most of Mario’s history is built off of simplistic ideas. But while this works for the medium of video games, where you’re more likely to find enjoyment from how the game plays rather than the set dressing around it, it’s kind of lackluster for a movie. The quick paced story is constantly zooming from one location set piece to another, giving very little in terms of character development or emotional weight. I wasn’t expecting this to be some grand Greek odyssey or anything, but I at least would’ve liked to see some attempt at making these characters actually interesting. They all fit the roles you’d expect, Mario is the determined fish out of water, Peach is the headstrong leader, and Bowser is the mustache twirling force of evil. Which is fine, but I would’ve liked to see a lot more character interactions that built upon their relationships in meaningful ways. Mario and Luigi even spend most of the movie apart, with Luigi not really getting any play until the final act. Kind of feels more like a Super Mario movie rather than a Super Mario Bros. Movie, you know? I can at least appreciate that the film’s quick pace and short runtime leaves room for little fluff and meandering, something I’ve always disliked from Illumination’s other films. The film is definitely as dumbed down as their other movies, but at least it has enough visual splendor to make it great to look at, whereas I’ve always found Illumination’s style to be pretty bland and uninteresting.
The animation is certainly the highlight, with a ton of care put into transferring the Mario world onto the big screen. As a long time fan, I was pretty shocked by just how many creatures, locations, items and references they were able to stuff in here, both from new and old games. Whereas the Sonic films seemed almost afraid to adapt the iconography of its source material, the Mario movie displays it proudly. Even subtleties like the way Mario runs or how he performs the triple jump are all game accurate, showing that genuine fans of the series were spearheading this production. Either that or Nintendo was really breathing down their necks with this one. Both possible. I also have to give credit to the action sequences here. They’re a ton of fun and impressively composed. Even if the film plays out like one big video cutscene, at least it’s a good looking one.
Now, the one aspect of the film everyone seemed to be divisive upon its announcement was the voice cast, and you know, for good reason. Chris Pratt as Mario? Really? It definitely seemed like the studio was more focused on big names voicing the characters rather than, you know, actual voice actors. I can at least say that the performances here range from great to just okay, with none being outright terrible. Charlie Day as Luigi is perfect to me, and I wish we could’ve gotten more of it. Jack Black as Bowser is the standout performance, with his gravely rocker voice that manages to be both comedic and intimidating. He even gets a small song at one point, which if I’m being honest, should’ve been a much bigger thing if you were gonna have Black in the role. As for the rest of the cast, they’re just okay. Anya Taylor-Joy as Peach; fine. Seth Rogan as Donkey Kong; fine. Yes, even Chris Pratt as Mario is just fine. The accent seems to fluctuate and his wahoos still feel a little half-hearted, but at the end of the day he’s serviceable, neither ruining the film nor being all that memorable.
Like I said before, if you are not a child and have no real care or connection to the Mario series, you’re probably not going to care much about this. It’s an incredibly generic story with incredibly bottom shelf writing that doesn’t do a ton for adult enjoyment. This one is for the fans, and more importantly, Illumination’s demographic. It’s not trying to have an underlying message like a Disney film or tackle more adult themes like a Dreamworks film, it’s really just here to give the fans and kids watching suitable eye candy for 90 minutes. And that’s why I feel so torn on rating this. I genuinely had a decent time even if I have quite a few complaints. As a fan of the games I was happy, but as a fan of movies I thought it was kind of generic. At the end of the day I hope you’ll form your own opinion and keep in mind what I’ve said today if you decide to approach the movie yourself.
The Koopa King
Whether it be in kart racing, fighting, tennis, baseball, or dancing that one time, I’m a Bowser guy. It might just be my big dumb boy brain, but just look at the guy. One of the best villain designs in history. Bowser was the one I was most hyped to see in a Mario movie, so I think it’s fitting that I give him the cocktail treatment. The Koopa King is a big, spicy tiki cocktail with a great mix of sweet heat, but its appearance is what I’m perhaps most excited about. To really make this drink in Bowser’s image, we are going to be decorating it with some chili pepper horns and a fiery head of flames. As always when handling fire and alchohol together, take precautions to make sure you are being safe, and NEVER attempt this while intoxicated.
- 1.5oz dark rum
- 1/2oz overproof rum
- 3/4oz orange liqueur
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
- 1oz lime juice
- 1.5oz pineapple mango juice
- 2 dashes Tabasco hot sauce
- 3/4oz cinnamon syrup
- Garnish: 2 red chili peppers
- FIRE: 1 sugar cube or crouton
- Add all ingredients to a shaker and shake with ice.
- Strain into a tiki glass filled with ice.
- Garnish 2 red chili peppers along the rim to mimic horns.
- Take a halve of a lime (a husk will work), place a sugar cube or crouton on the husk, and carefully douse it with a small amount of overproof rum.
- Ignite the doused cube with your lighter of choice. BLOW OUT FLAME BEFORE CONSUMING DRINK!