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The Super Mario Bros. Movie

MOVIE | Beautifully animated film delivers equal parts nostalgia and cliché

Nintendo and Universal Studios

<em>The Super Mario Bros. Movie</em>
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➤ Rated PG
➤ Theaters
➤ S1 / V3 / L1*

Super Mario Bros. is one of the world’s most beloved video game franchises, so it’s somewhat surprising it took 30 years for Mario and Luigi to return to the silver screen after their disastrous live-action film from 1993. Now Nintendo’s signature characters are back, starring in a beautifully animated feature film from Universal Pictures’ Illumination.

The action starts in New York City where Mario (Chris Pratt) and Luigi (Charlie Day) attempt to start their own plumbing business—without much success. The hapless brothers get sucked into a magic sewer pipe that deposits them in the fantasy world first introduced in the classic NES game from 1985.

The two brothers are separated, and the evil King Bowser (Jack Black) captures Luigi. Mario looks for friends in this strange land to help him rescue his brother. Toad (Keegan-Michael Key) acts as Mario’s guide, and Princess Peach (Anya Taylor-Joy), who’s trying to defend her kingdom from Bowser’s Koopa army, decides she and Mario should work together. Throw in Donkey Kong (Seth Rogen) and some go-kart racing to juice up the gaming nostalgia.

The Super Mario Bros. Movie will appeal to many parents and kids through a shared attachment to the characters. Adults with fond memories of dodging turtle shells in the ’80s and ’90s won’t mind watching the movie with their children, many of whom have dodged turtle shells in updated versions of those classic games.

The studio should be applauded for keeping the story sweet and family friendly. The most progressive thing about this movie is that Mario and Peach must rescue Luigi rather than the boys needing to rescue the princess. There’s no attempt to grab adults’ attention with edgy humor. Instead, grown-ups can focus on identifying the countless Easter eggs packed into each scene.

Despite its delights, the movie has its pitfalls. The script is paper thin, seemingly written to hit certain video-­game environments rather than create a satisfying story, and sometimes one scene jumps to the next without much sense of connection. The film also indulges in the clichéd admonition to believe in yourself even when no one else will. The cast contains numerous stars, but the voice work from Pratt and Taylor-Joy falls flat. On the other hand, Key’s Toad offers a couple of inspired moments, and Black’s Bowser has a couple of showstoppers.

It’s hard not to compare The Super Mario Bros. Movie to The Lego Movie. Both star Chris Pratt, and both feature internationally beloved intellectual property. The Lego Movie is inventive, clever, and exceedingly funny, but The Super Mario Bros. Movie avoids risks, playing it safe and allowing nostalgia to do all the heavy lifting.

For Nintendo fans, this movie will be a fun jaunt down memory lane, but nongamers should give it a pass.

* Ratings from kids-in-mind.com, with quantity of sexual (S), violent (V), and foul-language (L) content on a 0-10 scale, with 10 high

Top-grossing video game adaptations

  • The Super Mario Bros. Movie / 2023
  • Sonic the Hedgehog 2 / 2022
  • Sonic the Hedgehog / 2020
  • Uncharted / 2022
  • Pokémon: Detective Pikachu / 2019
  • Lara Croft: Tomb Raider / 2001
  • The Angry Birds Movie / 2016
  • Rampage / 2018
  • Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time / 2010

Collin Garbarino

Collin is WORLD’s arts and culture editor. He is a graduate of the World Journalism Institute, the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Louisiana State University and resides with his wife and four children in Sugar Land, Texas.



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