The Super Mario Bros. Movie has been in very long production, Illumination Pictures got the job to do the movie following Nintendo’s partnership with Universal, which also resulted in the Nintendo World theme parks which have shown up in various Universal World parks.
Nintendo and Illumination have finally got the movie out following a short delay last year after the cast announcement. You can definitely tell that Nintendo had a very heavy hand in production, especially at the end of Shigeru Miyamoto (Mario’s creator) who was reluctant to create another Mario movie after what happened last time…
In case you’re unfamiliar with a standard Mario Brothers event, the basic plot is that Bowser (Jack Black) has decided to invade the Mushroom Kingdom after gaining the power of the Super Star to win the marriage of Princess Peach (Anya Taylor-Joy), who is trying to create her own defence. After getting some help from Mario (Chris Pratt) who has his own mission to save his brother Luigi (Charlie Day).
The film is actually remarkably short, it barely clocks in at an hour and a half including credits, and I think that this was to this film’s success. Mario games really aren’t known for their storylines and this movie is no exception to that rule. A large focus of the story involves Mario, Peach, and Toad (Keegan-Michael Key) travelling to the Kong Kingdom to gain Kranky Kong’s army. If you’re a fan of the Donkey Kong Country games, this place is littered with Easter Eggs for you. In fact, the whole film is full of cameos! There’s a location in Brooklyn called Punch-Out Pizzeria, Mario plays a classic NES game at one point, I do think that the film is very reference-heavy, but I also think that it doesn’t detriment the film. Sometimes it gives the idea of references for the sake of references, but I certainly appreciated some, like Mario and Luigi’s old boss from Wrecking Crew. I won’t give away all of the various winks and nods, but if you’re a long-time Nintendo fan, you’ll get a lot out of it.
One of the film’s strongest points for me is the film’s musical score, produced by Brian Tyler. He’s done an excellent job recreating the various Mario themes from throughout the franchise and he blends them together so well. I spotted one sequence that went from the classic Mario theme to the Super Mario World theme, to even the Bomb-omb Battlefield score. There’s a whole bunch of great music taken from throughout the series. They also get new compositions! Koji Kando has clearly been involved at some level with the soundtrack considering that a lot of his original compositions are in this, and it is to the films’ benefit.
I also would like to say that Mario Brothers is probably Illumination’s best-looking movie to date. I’ve kind of been getting sick of her art style especially considering we’re really getting used to it with movies like Despicable Me, Sing, and The Secret Life of Pets. I certainly know that it didn’t mix well with Dr. Seuss’ art style in their adaptation of The Grinch. But in this movie, they do a brilliant job! It certainly has some of the classic Illumination animation styles, I noticed one of the dogs in Brooklyn could have easily been in Secret Life of Pets. But the Mushroom Kingdom in particular did a good job mixing the game’s arty style with the films’.
As for the voice cast, they do a fine job. I think there was a major overreaction with Chris Pratt playing Mario, but he does a fine enough job in the role, and I liked Charlie Day as Luigi, though I definitely hear his voice quite distinctively which just makes me think of the image of him in a recording studio – but that was always going to happen for me considering how much I watch Always Sunny in Philadelphia (I’m waiting for someone to dub over his lines in this with Charlie’s in Always Sunny to hilarious effect).
I actually thought that the cast did a fine job, the only one where I really noticed a celebrity voice was with Seth Rogan as Donkey Kong, even though he does a good job in the role. The only one which I felt grated on me was Keegan-Michael Key as Toad. The humour in this character started to wear thin on me down the line. I also really liked Anya-Taylor Joy as Peach! She does a pretty good job in the role and delivers when she needs to.
The absolute standouts for me are Jack Black as Bowser and Kevin Michael Richardson as Kamek. Particularly Kevin Michael Richardson, I will praise him for being unrecognisable for being a voice actor with a very distinctive voice. Jack Black knows exactly what film he’s in and he delivers on it, and of course, he gets one moment in the film where he gets to move into his Tenacious D persona, which is used to glorious effect. If you haven’t seen the film yet, the song will be in your head for days!
The one negative that I will say is that the film is a bit by the numbers. It particularly feels that way in the last portion of the movie, but they do an excellent job replicating the side-scrolling stages of the Mario games.
Overall, I get a sense that there was a real respect for the games by the filmmaking team. Though, this is probably due to Nintendo significantly breathing down their necks during production – especially considering how much of their own money has gone into the film.
The Super Mario Brothers Movie is a good movie and I liked it a lot. I would say that it’s not the best video game movie, it’s not very remarkable and it does feel like it’s going through the motions. Overall, it’s very good and we could have got a lot worse. I think that the cast list is great, and I would say that there are really cool ideas here. I would say that this movie was solid but never to the extent that it absolutely wowed me.
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