[Nintendo / Illumination Entertainment]
“The Super Mario Bros. Movie” has taken the world by storm, becoming the biggest box-office hit of 2023 and setting records for the largest global opening ever for an animated film. Directed by Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic and written by Matthew Fogel, the film doesn’t try to reinvent the genre or the source material. Instead, it captures the joystick energy of the game, creating the illusion that anything is possible.
The film starts with Mario and Luigi (voiced by Chris Pratt and Charlie Day) delving deep into the sewers of New York, discovering a hidden portal to the Mushroom Kingdom, where they get separated into two different universes. Mario lands in the Mushroom Kingdom, ruled by Princess Peach (Anya Taylor-Joy), while Luigi is zapped into the Dark Lands controlled by the evil King Koopa, Bowser (voiced by Jack Black). Mario must rescue Luigi and form an alliance with the Kong family of gorillas to defeat Bowser, who wants to rule the world and marry Princess Peach.
While the film is aimed at 5-year-olds of all ages, it is way more fun even for non-gamers than skeptics predicted. It’s an asset that “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” is aimed at a wider audience than just gamers. Parents starved for family entertainment will enjoy this movie as well. The dedication to silliness makes “Mario” such an impish delight. Fans of the game will be happy with the familiar imagery, which is incorporated into the film while adding practically nothing.
The animation is the real secret behind the unexpected and staggering success of “The Super Mario Bros. Movie.” It niftily catches the anarchy of gaming and creates the illusion that anything is possible. The animation is the next best thing to playing the actual game, which continues to thrive and multiply.
The voice casting of non-Italian Chris Pratt as Mario was a concern for some fans, but Pratt uses his own voice to play the mustachioed Italian plumber in overalls. Ditto for Charlie Day as his shy brother Luigi. Both put on exaggerated Italian accents in a TV ad for the bros’ Brooklyn plumbing business, then revert to normal. The casting works well, and the voice actors do a great job of bringing the characters to life.
“The Super Mario Bros. Movie” is a totally functional animated kids movie that moves fast and is silly, making it a fun experience for both kids and adults. The more familiar you are with Mario, the more little coins of recognition you’re going to collect, and the higher the movie will score with you. While it’s not a total reinvention of the franchise, it captures the essence of what makes Mario great and is a great addition to the franchise.