By: Linda Wang
Dropping on Apr. 5, the Super Mario Bros. movie received outstanding attention, overwhelming audience praise, and a myriad of mixed reviews across the globe. Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto and Illumination CEO Chris Meledandri co-produced the movie, which was first announced in 2018. Amidst all of the criticism and discussion, I offer my own, completely unbiased (I am a die-hard loyal Mario fan who will do anything for this adorable Italian plumber) and nowhere-near-expert-approved review of this movie. Spoiler warning.
First, we have the plot, which received lots of criticism regarding its simplicity. The movie’s plot may not be complex, but considering the movie’s overall youthful and lighthearted tone, Miyamoto and Meledandri do a fantastic job creating a cohesive storyline alongside with a creative spin. Audience members can finally understand Mario and Luigi’s origins as plumbers before they end up in the Mushroom Kingdom, where they embark on a typical damsel-in-distress journey ––– only this time, it’s Mario and Princess Peach saving Luigi.
There are many aspects of the Mario franchise that do not make much sense plot-wise (when did Mario suddenly decide to drive a car? Or become a cat?) but it’s unrealistic to expect this movie to cater to a rigid and complex plot whilst containing the original Mario elements fans all know and love. Instead, the movie serves as a bridge between the existing creative mechanics and rich setting of the video games and a sensible, comprehensible, and enticing plotline.
In addition to plot, many critics are clamoring about the character roles in the movie: the casting of Chris Pratt as Mario received a lot of criticism in particular. Pratt’s voice acting certainly captures a different personality than our conventional “Lets-a-go!” platformer, and my response is that it’s so mediocre it’s not even worth commenting on! Is it unfortunate? Yes. Deal-breaker? No. Certainly, other voice actors transformed their flat screen characters. Charlie Day, for example, remains true to Luigi’s timid self whilst embodying a brotherly and loving spirit previously unexplored in Luigi’s character. Keegan-Michael Key embodies Toad’s carefree style yet dedication to Princess Peach. And finally, Jack Black’s casting as Bowser needs absolutely no explanation or criticism. The man develops Bowser’s character so wholeheartedly and fully that any amateur watching this movie will fall in love with his character right away (couldn’t say the same for Peach, though).
Finally, the references. The criticisms went wild with the references, calling them unnecessary, desperate, or inappropriate. I could not be more stunned. Each reference in the movie made sense and felt like a grand and satisfying tribute to past works. The entire theater gasped at so many moments: the landing on Rainbow Road, Peach’s completion of the platforming challenge, or the camera view of Mushroom Kingdom with the theme’s orchestral remix. Some of my personal favorite references are the Crazy Cap store (Odyssey fan!), Peach’s floating dress, and the hit musical banger, DK rap.
The characters, voice actors, references, and music are what cohesively made the Mario movie the highest grossing film of this year so far. Calling it a failed attempt is a detriment to the producers and fans who so eagerly loved the franchise, and this movie.
(Sources: Digital Spy, LA Times, NY Times)