June 5, 2023
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Life & Culture

Review: Mario makes successful leap to the big screen

The Super Mario Bros. Movie

Universal Pictures

“The Super Mario Bros. Movie” from Illumination finally hit theaters with an absolutely explosive debut and a worldwide gross of over $400 million. Despite being released so recently, the film has already gained a reputation for its significant divide between audience and critic scores. The movie currently holds a baffling critic score of 58% on Rotten Tomatoes next to a 96% positive audience rating. But what exactly makes this film so polarizing to begin with?

When it comes to the story, the animated “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” centers around the iconic characters as they’re transported from Brooklyn to the Mushroom Kingdom, working with Princess Peach (Anya Taylor-Joy) to help rescue Luigi (Charlie Day) from Bowser’s (Jack Black) castle and save their world from Bowser’s evil plans.

When news broke in 2021 about the cast of the “The Super Mario Bros. Movie,” the internet went berserk. Fans of the beloved series were ecstatic to be getting a $100 million blockbuster centered around the iconic characters they grew up with, but that’s not to say there weren’t negative opinions. Initially, it seemed like audiences everywhere were utterly confused at the decision to cast Chris Pratt of all people in the titular role. How do you execute a character like Super Mario without an exaggerated Italian accent?

Overall, the voice acting is pretty hit or miss. Pratt is not nearly as bad as audiences initially thought he would be, but he’s nothing to write home about. Taylor-Joy’s performance as Princess Peach comes across like she was just waiting to cash a check. Some standouts were Seth Rogen as Donkey Kong, Day as Luigi and Black as Bowser. However, these characters don’t have nearly as much screen time as they deserve.

Easily the best aspect of the movie is Black’s insanely charismatic performance as Bowser, adding his own personality to the role and making the character more dynamic and interesting. But his character barely feels like a presence sometimes — for a villain, he gets shockingly little screen time compared to the rest of the cast despite being the most entertaining part of the film.

The main problem with “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” overall is that it doesn’t know its own strengths. Too much time is dedicated to meaningless filler, like a training montage that overstays its welcome, rather than moments fans will actually love. In what world does a Mario Bros. movie only give Luigi about twenty minutes of screen time?

One of the glaringly obvious issues with the “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” is the pacing. Excluding credits, the film clocks in at just over eighty minutes long, relatively short for a feature blockbuster, yet the pacing makes it feel so much longer. The final twenty minutes feel like the writers room all collectively agreed that they were running low on time and had to cram in as much story as they could.

Despite all of the problems with writing and voice acting, the best part is the animation. From the colors to the lighting and the textures, “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” is an absolutely gorgeous film when it comes to animation. It’s obvious in every frame just how much time and effort was spent on making this movie look as fun and cartoony as the games. So if there’s one thing that Illumination definitely got right, it’s the amazing visuals.

“The Super Mario Bros. Movie” is a flawed blockbuster, but judging by its extremely high audience score, the film knows its target demographic very well. It’s clear that this isn’t supposed to be a movie mentioned in the same sentence as “Citizen Kane,” and that’s okay. The film has a good message and seems to be entertaining audiences around the globe, giving Nintendo fans a movie to enjoy.