Don’t bet against success. “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” brings adorable adaptations of the Mario characters to the silver screen for all audiences alike — from children and families to the most devoted Mushroom Kingdom gamers.
Illumination’s animation style captures highly detailed depictions of the characters and the Mario universe, giving the audience background into the gaming environments that defined many of our childhoods. But if you think this movie is an attempt to encourage viewers to play more Mario games through nostalgia, you’re right.
The film follows Mario and Luigi as dedicated but failing Brooklyn plumbers that get sucked into the Mario universe. The brothers face the universal struggle of being a disappointment to their family while also trying to help save the Mushroom Kingdom from the evil Bowser’s army. The brothers are characterized by their charming optimism, unapologetic fashion choices and love for each other.
Chris Pratt’s performance as Mario was insignificant and upsetting. The glaringly white casting choice didn’t honor Mario’s character as a member of an immigrant family from Brooklyn. While Pratt’s star power may have helped ticket sales, it was a disappointing choice for the beloved character. His voice acting didn’t impact the film in a positive way, aside from maybe allowing other characters to shine through his lacking performance.
This poor performance focused the movie on the brand’s ability to market a universe rather than a character — the Mario movie without Mario might be just as good.
In the film, Bowser threatens to destroy the Mushroom Kingdom, but he will show the adorable mushrooms mercy under one condition: Princess Peach becomes his wife. The movie is crammed with characters hoping to fulfill unrealistic dreams and impress the people they love, a hilarious and relatable theme to broad audiences. Bowser dreams of a classic enemies-to-lovers romance celebrated by a fairytale wedding — just like the rest of us.
As Princess Peach, Anya Taylor-Joy portrays the challenges of being a perfect princess traded off to fuel the narrative of a low-stakes video game. Keegan-Michael Key’s Toad demonstrates the bargaining power of being cute as a little mushroom guy that fights tirelessly to defend his friends. And Jack Black’s Bowser nails the hopelessly romantic delusional warlord, creating an undeniably lovable villain.
It was Black’s performance as Bowser that truly made the movie for me. Without his exaggerated but passionate yearning for Princess Peach, the movie would lack the majority of its humor and appeal. His irrational confidence sells it.
Criticism from the New York Post posits that the movie’s plot is simple and fuels obvious “soulless” attempts to capitalize off of the brand. These claims acknowledge valid criticisms that the industry values money and branding over new stories and creators. Continued support to only fund films like “Mario” eliminates needed space in film for less established works and actors, but calling the film “soulless” undermines the work that many people put into the movie and the Mario fandom’s relationship to the games and universe.
Movies that capitalize off brand names and are careless with their casting choices should not be prioritized, but recognition for the employment it creates and the individual efforts of the workers that contributed to its production should be appreciated.
“The Super Mario Bros. Movie” recognizes the occupation that truly saves our communities: plumbers. Mario and Luigi demonstrate an admirable commitment and artistry to the profession. While “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” prioritizes celebrity casting to the detriment of its title character, it still creates an incredibly detailed and nostalgic atmosphere for multiple generations. The performances from the supporting cast and the impressive animation alone make the movie worth watching.
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Addison Key is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @addisonkey11