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April 13, 2023

The (Less Than) Super Mario Bros. Movie

Jacob Pszczolkowski
Production Manager

When the “Super Mario Bros. Movie” was announced as an Illumination Entertainment production, nobody expected greatness. I personally dreaded Illumination’s artistically bankrupt ideas that would cover their vacuously trite work with a coat of Mario paint. When the first trailers dropped, my attitude changed. The beautiful color, loving homage to the 1980s “Super Mario Bros. Super Show”, and overall non-Illumination feel got my hopes up that maybe Nintendo managed to steer the studio to a decently satisfying production.

The final product is a mediocre disappointing mix of both.

The “Super Mario Bros. Movie” does have its strengths. Both Brooklyn, NY and the Mushroom Kingdom are gorgeously rendered, with all the bright color and flair expected from the whimsical world of Mario. Bowser is played wonderfully by Jack Black who steals every scene in which he appears. The movie is delightfully stuffed with genuine homages to the history of Mario and Nintendo as a whole. Unfortunately, I don’t have much more to praise in this film.

The story starts off decently strong, establishing the brothers as upstart plumbers looking to prove themselves against a world that expects them to fail. After a detour through their first job, they find themselves transported to another world—the Mushroom Kingdom, a technicolor dreamland under threat from an evil King Bowser. For the next hour, the “Super Mario Bros. Movie” takes a massive hit to its quality. Luigi, half of the titular duo, has less screentime than the overall unimportant Toad. Having been separated from Mario and fallen into Bowser’s custody, Luigi is condemned to spend the rest of the film in Bowser’s dungeon with his fellow prisoners. Licensed music plagues the film, pulling in popular songs entirely too often (as in at least six times) with little to no thematic relevance. Characters fail to establish any real reasons for their choices and actions. Why does Toad follow Mario into such dangerous situations? Why does Princess Peach, a competent leader and fighter, bring the woefully incompetent Mario—who she met mere minutes ago —along on missions of life-or-death importance? The middle of the movie rushes from action setpiece to action setpiece with next to nothing in the way of character development or explanation in between.

The final 15 minutes of the movie are about as enjoyable as the beginning, but cannot save the complete void of emotion and thought that makes up most of the film. Being a “Kid’s Movie” is no excuse for failing to successfully execute even the most basic of Hero’s Journey structures. The “Super Mario Bros. Movie” is a fun watch with a large group of friends to joke around with, but your time and money would be better spent on other films.

Photo courtesy of Hannah Gaither

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