Adventure Animation

Review: ‘The Super Mario Bros. Movie’ is a Fun Adventure that Will Give Nintendo Fans the Warm and Fuzzies

April 4, 2023Ben MK

WWhether you're a moviegoer, a music lover or a video gamer, it's hard to deny the power of nostalgia. From the films we watched growing up to the bands we listened to and the games we played, our childhood memories have a way of staying with us well into our adult years. It's a phenomenon that Nintendo has been especially good at capitalizing on, over the course of its many home and handheld consoles and its impressive catalog of first-party, family-friendly games. And with The Super Mario Bros. Movie, the iconic video game company is bringing some of its most beloved and famous characters to the big screen, in an adventure that's sure to give audiences the warm and fuzzies.

Starring Chris Pratt as the voice of Mario and Charlie Day as the voice of his younger brother, Luigi, the story follows the pair of Brooklyn siblings, as they try to make a name for themselves as plumbers while also proving to their friends, family and neighbors that they're not the disappointments everyone seems to think they are. But when an emergency plumbing situation in Brooklyn has the duo venturing deep beneath the city in an attempt to save their borough, they soon find themselves facing more than they bargained for, after a mysterious sewer pipe transports them to a far-off and fantastical land. Known as the Mushroom Kingdom, it's a place where diminutive, anthropomorphic mushrooms called Toads comprise the majority of the population, and where a headstrong princess named Peach (Anya Taylor-Joy) lives in a castle overlooking the entire realm. Little do Mario or Luigi realize, however, that the Mushroom Kingdom is also the target of a giant and fearsome turtle-like creature named Bowser (Jack Black). And with his sights set on conquering the peaceful nation and making Peach his unwitting bride, Bowser will stop at nothing until he's crowned himself ruler of all.

Having recently stolen a rare and powerful artifact known as the Super Star from the Penguin King, Bowser — along with his vast army of Koopas, Goombas and Spinies — now has everything he needs to wage all-out war on the Mushroom Kingdom. What he doesn't count on, though, is Peach, who is determined not to go down without a fight. Believing that an alliance with the mighty Kong tribe will help her and her loyal subjects defeat Bowser, Peach embarks on a journey to convince the tribe's leader, Cranky Kong (Fred Armisen), and his muscle-bound son, Donkey Kong (Seth Rogen), to join their cause. Before she can do so, however, she'll have to teach Mario a thing or two about dodging Bullet Bills and using power-ups. And along with Toad (Keegan-Michael Key), they'll also have to rescue Luigi, who has been captured by Bowser and is being held prisoner in a lava-adjacent dungeon, whose hapless inhabitants the Koopa King plans on sacrificing in a climactic ceremony.

Directed by Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic, the result is a love letter to all things Mario, from the original NES and SNES classics to fan-favorite spin-offs like Mario Kart, Luigi's Mansion and Super Smash Bros. Needless to say, hardcore Nintendo fans will have a field day trying to spot the plethora of winks and nods to the games, be it a herd of multicolored Yoshis galloping happily through the background or Diddy Kong enthusiastically cheering on his hero, Donkey Kong, amid a stadium full of rowdy spectators. No matter how keen-eyed you are, it'll take more than one single viewing to appreciate all of the Easter Eggs packed into The Super Mario Bros. Movie. And when you consider the longevity of the Super Mario Bros. game series, it's no surprise that the movie is positioning itself as the first installment in a franchise — one that will undoubtedly attract as many parents who fondly remember the games as it will kids who are simply looking for a cute and colorful animated adventure.

Throw in a score that pays homage to the original 8-bit and 16-bit game music and a soundtrack that makes appropriate use of '80s power ballads, plus a post-credit scene that teases the big screen debut of a key character, and it's a foregone conclusion that this isn't the last viewers will be seeing of Mario, Luigi, Peach, Toad and Bowser. What is less certain, however, is just how well the inevitable sequels will be received by audiences. After all, the line separating nostalgic fun from childhood-ruining exploitation is a notoriously thin one.

The Super Mario Bros. Movie releases April 5th, 2023 from Universal Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of PG for action and mild violence. Its runtime is 1 hr. 32 min.

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