21st Jul2023

‘The Super Mario Bros. Movie’ Blu-ray Review

by Matthew Turner

Stars: Chris Pratt, Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Day, Jack Black, Keegan-Michael Key, Seth Rogen, Fred Armisen, Sebastian Maniscalco, Charles Martinet, Kevin Michael Richardson | Written by Matthew Fogel | Directed by Aaron Horvath, Michael Jelenic

Chris Pratt and Charlie Day voice moustachioed plumbers Mario and Luigi in this animated adaptation of one of the most popular video games of all time. Produced by Illumination (home of the Minions) and co-directed by Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic, the film instantly eclipses all memories of the disastrous 1993 live-action movie and delivers fast-paced forgettable fun, much like the video game itself.

The Super Mario Bros Movie opens in what looks like 1980s Brooklyn, where plumbers Mario and Luigi are excited to begin their new plumbing business, after recording a commercial in which they adopt exaggerated Italian accents (thereby neatly getting around the problem of whether they’re going to speak like that for the entire movie). However, when they descend into the city’s sewers to fix a leak, they’re unexpectedly pulled into a different world, via a glowing green pipe.

Luigi lands in the scary-looking Dark Lands and is immediately captured, but Mario lands in the brightly coloured Mushroom Kingdom and is befriended by Toad (Keegan-Michael Key), who leads him to their benevolent ruler, Princess Peach (Anya Taylor-Joy). Together, Mario and Peach embark on a quest to enlist the Kong Army, in order to rescue Luigi from the evil turtle Bowser (Jack Black), who plans to take over the world and marry Princess Peach while he’s at it.

The colourful, fast-paced animation is impressive throughout, most notably in the way that the action deliberately imitates elements of gameplay. A particularly enjoyable sequence early on has Mario and Luigi simply crossing Brooklyn left-to-right, navigating various 2D platform-style obstacles, while a later Kart-chase sequence explicitly recreates the thrills of Mario Kart.

On a similar note, Horvath and Jelenic include a nicely edited montage sequence that perfectly recreates the frustration of repeatedly failing to complete a difficult level. This also contains The Super Mario Bros Movie‘s best joke, part of a running gag about Mario not liking mushrooms. As is to be expected with a film like this – especially with 38 years of Mario game history to draw on – there’s lots and lots of fan service, including a sweet cameo for the original voice of Mario, Charles Martinet. To that end, a lot of attention has gone into Brian Tyler’s score, which frequently riffs on themes and sound effects from the various games by composer Koji Kando.

Script-wise, the film isn’t trying to do anything too clever, along the lines of Ralph Breaks The Internet or The Lego Movie, so the story is purely serviceable and definitely aimed more at kids than adults. That said, there is a sort of unabashed joy in the way the film embraces the possibilities of Mario World and its inherent nonsense, e.g. Mario hitting a PowerUp that turns him into a cat at a particularly opportune moment.

The film’s strongest element is its excellent voice cast. Pratt and Day both create likeable leads as Mario and Luigi, while Taylor-Joy makes Peach a fun, dynamic, take-charge character rather than just someone adorable who needs rescuing, and there’s great comic support from Seth Rogen, who essentially grafts his own established comic persona onto Donkey Kong, to winning effect.

However, the stand-out turn – and one of the main reasons to see The Super Mario Bros Movie – is Jack Black’s delightful comic performance as Bowser, who makes him simultaneously fierce and menacing, but also romantic and genuinely smitten with Peach, to the point where he writes and sings heartfelt piano ballads about her. It’s an inspired idea and it really works – if you’re a fan of the games, you’ll never look at Bowser quite the same way again.

That’s not to say the film isn’t entirely without flaws. For one thing, it could have used quite a bit more in the way of humour, as there are plenty of missed opportunities for jokes, even in the Bowser scenes. Similarly, the climax feels a little flat and lazy, and doesn’t quite hit the emotional heights that it could have easily reached with a bit more effort – it’s nearly there, but not quite.

In short, it’s an admittedly low bar to clear, but as movies adapted from video games go, The Super Mario Bros Movie is up there with the best of them, colourfully capturing the fun and atmosphere of Mario World, even if it leaves a few buttons unpushed in the process. Oh, and there’s a post-credits sting, if you like that sort of thing, which suggests they’re already thinking about sequels.

The “Power Up Edition” Blu-ray includes over 55 mins of Bonus Features:

  • Getting to Know the Cast
  • Levelling Up: Making THE SUPER MARIO BROS. MOVIE
  • “Peaches” Lyric Video
  • Leadership Lessons from Anya Taylor-Joy

*** 3/5

The Super Mario Bros Movie is released on DVD, Blu-ray and 4K UHD on Monday, July 24th 2023.


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