For some time now I’ve said that after the success of the comic book hero translations that flood our theaters and TV screens, the next big source of filmed entertainment would be video games. They’ve tried in the past, but the results weren’t the best. Recent adaptations and success from The Witcher, to Sonic the Hedgehog, (and most recently) The Last of Us have proven that good content is finally being released unto the world. So, after the failure that was the 80s live action adaptation of Super Mario Brothers halted any further fruit from that tree, we finally have a new contender in entering into a world of decent adaptations…and it’s all gone backwards.
Brooklyn plumbers Mario (Chris Pratt) and Luigi (Charlie Day) are struggling to get their new privately owned business off to a good start. When a massive water main break threatens to cause a lot of property damage to their beloved neighborhood, the brothers jump into action. If they can stop the massive flow of water from running, they will be famous. In trying to fix the problem, they find a hidden section of the sewers with a special green pipe that sucks them into another world.
They get split up along the way though, with Mario ending up in the lush and thriving Mushroom Kingdom, and Luigi ending up in the desolate and scary Dark Real. With the help of his new found friend, Toad (Keegan-Michael Key), Mario attempts to gain the aid of Princess Peach (Anya Taylor-Joy) to save his brother. She is already planning to head to the Dark Realm to stop the evil Bowser (Jack Black), and takes Mario with her to hopefully solve all their plans.
The Super Mario Bros. Movie is only 92 minutes long, but even trying to succinctly describe the plot in a simple summary is impossible as halfway through the movie they are still unfolding new parts of the plot. What technically is a simple story is just muddled in a massive knot of overstimulation. World building is left at the door giving way for the filmmakers to jam in every little piece of Mario lore they can into every single frame. Unlike any video game in the world where you play something you love and the sequel gives you what you love and adds to it; The Super Mario Movie took everything you loved and just threw it at the screen and hoped it worked.
A walking, breathing cliché; The Super Mario Bros. Movie is more cringe than loveable nostalgia. Punctuated by a soundtrack sourced from Now That’s What I Call a Movie Soundtrack! Vol. 67 CD they picked up at a local bargain bin, almost every joke lands flatter than level full of defeated Goombas. This is a kids movie. The jokes are not really meant for adults, but even those jokes don’t work. I can count one little child chuckle that occurred for the entirety of the screening I was at.
For a kids movie, there is also a fair amount of content that didn’t seem so kid friendly. Luigi’s initial arrival in the Dark Realm was probably the one thing in the movie I enjoyed. The introduction to the Dry Bones and Shy Guys actually caught my attention, but didn’t seem that fit for little children. As Luigi and other captives then sit caged above endless pits and lava, they are treated to the existential crisis of the gleeful Lumalee in another cage that is terrifying for adults and will confuse/confound young ones.
Leading up to the release of The Super Mario Bros. Movie, it seemed the biggest worry fans had was Chris Pratt’s delivery as the historic gaming icon. Most people thought it would just be Pratt’s voice again and they didn’t want that. He actually pulls out a nuanced Brooklyn accent and does fine for the role and should be the very last thing people should worry about in what is ultimately another failed attempt to translate what many would consider the birth of modern video game culture. Is it made for kids, yes. But that doesn’t excuse reusing the same old jokes and set-ups that every other kid’s movie has trotted out before. The Super Mario Bros. Movie needs to be sent down a pipe to a world no one else can access, and left there.
Final Grade: D
Here’s the trailer of the film.