The Super Mario Bros. Movie: plumbers and monkeys and turtles, oh my!

Will SorgMovies Guy

Even before I owned a Nintendo Wii, I was a Mario fan. I remember asking to play Mario games on other people’s Nintendo DS’s when I rode the bus in elementary school, and playing online browser games just to get a chance to play something even half-related to the series. When I actually got a Wii, I endlessly played as many Mario games as I could get my hands on. I was obsessed. Super Mario Galaxy 2 was actually the first game I ever bought on its release day and even now I think there is something so effortlessly charming about the longstanding game series.

Mario is one of the most recognizable and popular franchises ever. The character’s many game franchises have sold more copies than every Harry Potter book combined and twice as many copies as the second best-selling video game franchise: Tetris. So, it comes as no surprise that when Nintendo finally decided to make an animated film adaptation, it quickly became a billion-dollar movie. As of writing this review, The Super Mario Brothers Movie is the most profitable video game movie ever made and has made it into the top 50 highest-grossing movies of all time. The film is a 90-minute, beautifully animated, children’s romp through the mushroom kingdom that hits all the high points that kids and video game fans go crazy for. 

For kids, it is a formula that works. Bright colors, humor that varies from shockingly clever to simplistically dumb, and endearing characters voiced by recognizable actors for the kid’s parents to recognize. The whole film is tailor-made for parents to bring their little kids to and for the kids to have a blast watching. Meanwhile, for older fans of Mario, the film is excellent at catering to the common desire of adaptations being faithful. This might be the movie with the highest number of easter eggs to its source material that I’ve ever seen. There is hardly a single second of the film that isn’t visually calling back to a game from the series. The musical score uses a ton of cues from the games and besides some plot changes to make a franchise that usually barely has a plot, this film has basically taken no risks in adapting a series with the largest video game fanbase on earth. 

That lack of risk is definitely my biggest issue. I had a pretty great time watching this film and I would definitely recommend seeing it, but this thing is so incredibly safe. There is a sense of endless pandering towards the obsessive adult fans of Mario that borders on jangling keys in front of a child’s face and when the film isn’t trying to fill its adult audience with nostalgia, it feels like it quite literally is jangling keys in front of a child’s face for the younger audience. It’s a kids’ movie – and not a very original one. It is quite remarkable how upset a lot of the internet has gotten over critics not loving this movie. The movie has mainly middling reviews for the most part and, yet in some circles on the internet, you would think that critics have kidnapped and held a real-life version of Mario hostage and are threatening to destroy the internet’s collective childhood. There has been a long-standing trend of certain internet communities believing that a mysterious collective of critics have some sort of agenda against fun when in actuality it is a case of two conflicting groups having different approaches to media. 

Fans of the movie are outraged that someone could judge this movie in any way that doesn’t relate to their level of fun had. Meanwhile, critics don’t hate it but rather see it as nothing special from a standpoint of critical analysis. Throughout this review, I have said essentially nothing about the film in regard to its content. I don’t really feel like I need to. It’s fine enough, I had my fun in the theater and I’d see it again if it came to a streaming service I own. However, for me, I also like to engage with films at a level beyond simple fun a lot of the time and this movie does not have much to offer besides simple fun.

So if people adore this movie because it’s fun, I really don’t blame them. I had a blast watching it. However, I have my doubts that the pinnacle of animation and cinematic storytelling is truly Chris Pratt being thrown into a car by giant turtle Jack Black.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *