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The Super Mario Bros. Movie (2023) review: Itsa me!

Mario is no stranger when it comes to adaptations. This isn’t his first foray into the movie industry. He appeared in other films such as Super Mario Bros.: Peach-hime Kyūshutsu Dai Sakusen!, Amada Anime Series: Super Mario Bros., The Wizard, Super Mario Bros., Mario Kirby Meisaku Video, Pixels, and the old Mario Bros. movie back in 1993.

Watching The Super Mario Bros. Movie on YouTube is a whole lot different from watching it at Vue Cinema Manchester in Printworks and the Odeon cinemas at Manchester Great Northern and in The Trafford Centre. I kept the two popcorn cardboard boxes and the Question Mark Block popcorn bucket. These popcorn buckets indicate that I watched this movie at the cinemas three times.

Letsa Go!

Storyline-wise, the story is, to be frank, lackluster, paper-thin, and predictable, but that is to be expected by a movie based on a long-running video game franchise. In other words, Nintendo and Illumination have played it safe with the plot. If people are looking for an extravagant, Shakespeare-esque story, look no further than the Mario RPG games such as Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door and Super Paper Mario, for instance.

Unlike the previous Illumination movies, Illumination stepped up its game when it collaborated with Nintendo in terms of the animation and how the colors and details were utilized for the backgrounds and the characters. For example, the Fire Flower field is strikingly beautiful against a nighttime backdrop as Mario, Princess Peach, and Toad are taking a break from their journey to the Jungle Kingdom. This is where Peach reveals her origins regarding how she came to the Mushroom Kingdom and became the princess. Usually, Illumination plays it safe and cheap out when it concerns the animation, colors, and details. In other words, Illumination tends to take the cheapest option, trying to do something as cheaply as possible. For example, Illumination reverted to its typical, usual ways for their upcoming film, Migration.

On that note, I liked the attention to detail, especially when it comes to the sheer abundance of the Easter Eggs and the fan service. What really bugged me was when the Koopa General yelled out, “Blue Shell!” even though it’s actually called a Spiny Shell, according to Mario Kart 8 and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Not to mention, he’s supposed to go after Princess Peach and Toad instead of Mario and Donkey Kong. In the movie, Princess Peach and Toad are way out in front while Mario and Donkey Kong are trailing behind. However, this isn’t a race. It’s a battle against Bowser and his Koopa Troop army. The purpose of the Spiny Shell is to target the racer who’s in the pole position, and this item is usually deployed by a racer who is in a lower position or in dead last. Once it finds and hits its target, the strike sends out a nuke-esque blast radius. Anyone caught in the blast radius gets sent into the air as well or gets spun out.

Taking it slow

I liked how Nintendo and Illumination didn’t go for a full-on romance in the Fire Flower Field scene between Mario and Peach. It’s heavily implied that they are starting to develop feelings toward each other, but they still only just met, and I could easily see them being more of an item in future movies. That’s really smart on Nintendo and Illumination. It’s a shame that most animated films tend to rush romantic relationships between the couples. Mario’s concern for Luigi, Peach assuring Mario that they’ll save Luigi no matter what (which means the absolute world to Mario), and Peach opening up to the plumber about her past… and then their longing gazes at each other as Toad plays the flute.

Romance isn’t even on their radar, but their hardships brought Mario and Peach closer together. They see each other’s strengths and weaknesses and improve themselves through their interactions. That’s what a healthy relationship is all about.

There were some laugh-out moments such as Kamek dressing up as Princess Peach to help Bowser practice his proposal to her. Kamek dressing up as Peach is a reference to New Super Mario Bros. Wii and the numerous games that came after it, such as Mario & Luigi: Dream Team Bros. The other two hilarious moments are Bowser singing his ballad Peaches and him singing a reprise of the same song or the second part of it during the mid-credits scene. How and where he got the piano from I’ll never know. Maybe the Toads gave it to him out of pity or to keep him occupied.

Rockin’ out

One of the highlights is the Koopa Troop rockin’ out to the Attack! Fury Bowser music track from Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury. I can’t deny that Kamek dancing on the spot next to Bowser is strangely adorable.

Speaking of rock, the fact that Bowser has always been associated with this genre of music for the longest time goes to show that Jack Black is perfect to voice Bowser, especially when the Kung Fu Panda lead is already a part of a rock band. It’s like a match made in heaven. However, it’s disappointing that Bowser didn’t perform a rock number to his army. Instead, Bowser decided to go Meatloaf on us.

The other highlight is when Mario keeps failing time and time again during the training montage at the obstacle course while Holding Out For A Hero by Bonnie Tyler is playing in the background. This alludes to us as the players constantly failing at the same level. This is what is called, “trial and error.” This moment is relatable because we already know what it’s like to repeatedly lose on the same level until we’re able to finish it. At first, you don’t succeed, try, try, try again. But if you think too deeply, this is a heartfelt, inspiring life lesson to everyone, not just gamers.

Overall, I have mixed opinions in terms of how music is used in this movie, especially when 80’s music has no business in being in this film when they’re irrelevant to the Mario series. This means that the other background music tracks from the soundtrack have missed out in being implemented in the film. For example, the Drivin’ Me Bananas music track should’ve been played while the white-furred gorilla took Mario, Princess Peach, and Toad on a ride through the Jungle Kingdom in a go-kart but instead, it’s replaced by Take On Me by a-ha. It’s annoying when background music tracks are replaced by irrelevant pop songs. It comes off as wasted potential, especially when these background music tracks are left to the wayside. The executives of a film distributing company always find a way to shove pop songs into an animated film when said pop songs have nothing to do with the source material or what the movie is about.

Itsa not me!

When it comes to Kamek, I didn’t expect his voice actor, Kevin Michael Richardson, to have range, considering he’s normally known to have a deep voice. I knew him as the person who voiced Chairman Drek from Ratchet & Clank (2002) and Captain Gantu in Lilo & Stitch and Lilo & Stitch: The Series. The Ratchet & Clank movie has it good, considering the voice actors returned to reprise their roles. Unfortunately, this can’t be said about The Super Mario Bros. Movie.

Which brings me to my next main criticism. Hollywood has absolutely no business in casting celebrities such as Chris Pratt as characters they don’t have any experience in providing their voices for. In other words, Chris Pratt, Charlie Day, Anya Taylor-Joy, Seth Rogen, Keegan-Michael Key, and Fred Armisen are miscast as the characters. This is the reason why the majority of the Mario fanbase was laughing their heads off the second the movie cast was revealed for the first time. Heck, even Tara Strong agreed with me and the general consensus

in regards to Chris Pratt isn’t the correct person to voice Mario and it should’ve been Charles Martinet, who’s been voicing Mario much longer than Chris. If you’ve got the attention of a well-established voice actress in a negative way, then you’re doing something wrong. The way Chris Pratt is voicing Mario, it’s like he’s phoning it in and calling it a day. The same is said about the other celebrities who shouldn’t be doing the already established voice actors and voice actress’ jobs to begin with. Whereas Jack Black already have previous experience voicing video game characters. Take his voice acting experience in Psychonauts 2 for instance.

Never not a girlboss

Newcomers are confused as to why Princess Peach is suddenly being a “Mary Sue” or a “girlboss.” However, to those of us that are already well-versed in the lore, Princess Peach has always been the kind of princess to fight her own battles and take matters into her own hands, as shown in Super Mario Bros. 2, Super Princess Peach and the upcoming, currently unnamed, Princess Peach game.

To conclude, I reckon the film should have a much longer runtime then the pacing wouldn’t be fast-paced and rushed. This will give the characters more time to develop. Despite the glaring flaws, I still recommend this film to newcomers, video game fans, and Mario aficionados, both new and old.


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