OK, yeah, sure—The Super Mario Bros. Movie is made for and aimed at children. But just like most animated properties since the dawn of animation, a contingent of adult moviegoers will certainly see the thing. Don’t forget, either, the parents who will have to take their kids; there should be things in there for them, too. And yet...ugh.
Animation studio Illumination (makers of the Minions movies) would surely know the very concept of a Mario Bros. film would speak to various generations. For so many of us, Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, Bowser and all the rest have been ubiquitous characters as far back as we can remember. Why, then, does this movie work so hard to be devoid of originality? Dimensional characters? Why does it eschew much of anything outside of repeated jokes from other films, Easter egg nods that feel less like sly winks than they do hammers emblazoned with “remember when...?” on them and celebrity voices less interested in crafting characters than sounding as much like themselves as possible?
In The Super Mario Bros. Movie, we follow brothers Mario and Luigi as they embark upon a new plumbing venture in New York City. No one believes in them, though, which proves an especially damning reality to endure when they’re swept into the alternate dimension Mushroom Kingdom through a pipe located deep within the sewers of Brooklyn. Seems a big ol’ fire-breathing turtle guy called Boswer (Jack Black; the only truly fun element of the movie) is hell-bent on domination and has taken over parts of the realm. Separated and forced to rely on the expositional facets crammed down our throats in the film’s early minutes, Mario (Chris Pratt) sets off to do brave stuff and make quips about heart or whatever, while Luigi (Charlie Day) drops Scooby-Doo-esque lines about g-g-g-g-ghosts or, in this case, k-k-k-k-koopas! Mario teams up with the Mushroom Kingdom’s Princess Peach (Anya Taylor Joy in what is just plain a mind-numbingly boring performance), Toad (Keegan-Michael Key, who, like Black, actually tries acting) and Donkey Kong (Seth Rogen doing his best impression of Seth Rogen) to find his brother and stop Bowser. Spoiler alert? They win.
Illumination is a top-tier animation studio, and no one should have any notes about their design and aesthetics. As for its recycled humor from its other movies and a whole heck of a lot of assuming most people will just know who the Mario characters are, well, let’s just say that if a kid who never had video games wandered into a theater, they’d be baffled. Oh, but look—there’s Rainbow Road from Mario Kart! There’s Kranky Kong from Donkey Kong Country! Flashing lights! Yoshi the dinosaur in the background! Love conquers all while the 50th slo-mo moment stands in for anything the least bit clever! Even worse, literally dozens of high-profile voice actors who could’ve done better left out of the process. Yes, The Super Mario Bros. Movie is for kids, and yes, adults will see it. The real question is, regardless of who it’s for, should it piss you off so badly?ly?
+Stunning animation and sound
-Barely-there story; subpar voice acting; too cute at times, even for kids
The Super Mario Bros. Movie
Directed by Aaron Horvath, Michael Jelenic and Pierre Leduc
With Pratt, Black, Taylor-Joy, Key and Rogen
Violet Crown, Regal, PG, 92 min.