If there’s one phrase that gamers abhor hearing when it comes to movie-game adaptations, it would have to be *insert film name here* has failed to escape the ‘video game movie curse’. Said mantra has been repeated by critics for decades now… even if the Super Mario Bros. movie from 1993 was probably (clearly) the one that started the whole charade. Fortunately, this 2023 rendition has blitzed past the original picture in every way possible, being a pure joy to watch for all age groups PG and up.
Even if Chris Pratt’s voice as Mario is okay—since they definitely could’ve opted for Charles Martinet in full—the movie is stacked with superb setpieces, stunning visuals, animation and fun Easter eggs from Mario and Nintendo’s star-studded history. I personally noticed some cheeky references to Punch-Out!!, Yoshi, Duck Hunt and Luigi’s Mansion to name a few. My only gripe is that they constructed the perfect setup for Luigi to start vacuuming ghosts, but didn’t really do anything special with the scenario. It was most likely placed there as a nod to the series, but it left me wanting just a little bit more.
And that’s the main reason why I can’t give The Super Mario Bros. Movie a 10/10—a lack of commitment. At certain points, it feels like the creators are about to show something awesome, something exactly the audience thinks or wants, only for them to subtly pull the rug out from underneath. I’m all for experimentation, but when it ends up feeling lacking or inferior to what it should be, that’s when I have to deduct points.
For example, (skip this paragraph if you don’t want to be spoiled whatsoever) there’s one point where the infamous ‘DK Rap’ song from Donkey Kong 64 starts playing, but it only repeats the opening few bars without ever mentioning the lyrics: “DK, Donkey Kong is here!” Now I know this sounds like a nitpick, but the lack of a proper follow-through keeps The Super Mario Bros. Movie from becoming a legendary adaptation.
Straight to the Point
In terms of plot, it’s a relatively straightforward one as you’d expect, with no major twists or turns. However, the awesome voice acting, silly humour and quicksmart pacing hardly ever let up. It’s hyper cool seeing Mario show off his skills on the Kart or bounce between blocks with so much style, as the dynamic camerawork lets the audience soak in as much of the action as possible whilst also immersing them in the chaos and wonderment of the Mushroom Kingdom. And oh boy, the Mario theme remixes they utilise are brilliant. Definitely check out the soundtrack when you can.
That being said, it is a bit weird hearing AC/DC’s ‘Thunderstruck’ or A-ha’s ‘Take On Me’ out of nowhere, and the fact that so many characters from Bowser’s squad will say “I’m going to kill you, Mario!” and “Time to die, Mario!” or something along those lines. I mean, this is a Mario title after all. But personally, these aspects detract very little from the overall experience. Even though this movie is still mostly aimed at kids, it’s funny to see Nintendo and Illumination make the Mario world feel so violently intense. Mario gets punched to a bruised and beaten state, whereas Peach and her loyal Toadstool guards straight-up wield spears at one point—it’s wild!
Same goes for the voice acting. Or rather, how ridiculously spot-on they are! Besides Chris Pratt, this A-list cast perfectly fits the legacy characters of Mario and all of their idiosyncrasies. Jack Black as Bowser is a match made in heaven, Keegen-Michael Key sounds exactly how an English-speaking Toad would and Anya Taylor-Joy was a delight; my absolute favourite of the whole bunch as Peach. In all honesty, it’s hard to see anyone else who could portray these characters in such a natural and faithful fashion as this group has. Truly fantastic.
Whether you’re a hardcore Mario lore nut or not, there’s something for each and every moviegoer to enjoy here. Some may have questioned why big-time Hollywood actors like Jack Black and Keegan-Michael Key were hired for their roles, but the final product unquestionably speaks for itself. Even though Luigi could’ve used some more love and a few jokes fall a shell flat, the epic orchestral remixes and grand scale world design can’t help but firmly Koopa those eyes on the screen.
The Super Mario Bros. Movie is a very great-a-time. This is one of those movies that makes it genuinely difficult to look away, as the mesmerising visuals and stunning animation envigorate the iconic Mushroom Kingdom with flair. Everyone but Chris Pratt legitimately crushed it in the voice acting department, while the high-octane setpieces and references to past Nintendo IPs make its memorable scenes even more exciting to witness.
Film by Nintendo and Illumination. The Beta Network uses affiliate partnerships, however, this does not influence reviews or any other content published. The Beta Network may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links that are on the website.