The Super Mario Bros. Movie
by Hope Madden
Allegedly, Anya Taylor-Joy, who’d never played a Mario game of any kind, played incessantly to prepare for her role as Princess Peach in The Super Mario Bros. Movie. I have also never played, but I am far less committed.
Directors Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic (both of Teen Titans fame) hit their tone in an absurd, adorable opening sequence that introduces the evil of Bowser (Jack Black, perfect). Then we skip to Brooklyn to meet a pair of lovable plumbing losers, Luigi (Charlie Day) and Mario (Chris Pratt).
Soon the indefatigable Mario and his hapless brother are sucked into another realm where the filmmakers show their fondness for these games. To keep from inadvertently spoiling any surprises, I’ll limit my description because I have no idea what is and is not an Easter egg here.
But video games equal quests and quests are excellent underpinnings for films as long as you strike the right tone. The recent Dungeons & Dragons movie knew that, which is why it was the first success in three attempts to turn that game into a good movie.
Writer Matthew Fogel (Minions: The Rise of Gru) balances light hearted humor with video game architecture that benefits from Illumination’s trademark vibrant color. Bowser gets an excellent music video moment custom made for Black, and Seth Rogan gives Donkey Kong a bratty quality I never realized he needed.
Plus, did you know there were these skeleton turtle zombies? AND little masked dystopian devil soldier guys who are simultaneously goth and cute as can be? But this side of the coin gets little attention, the filmmakers instead making a solidly family friendly flick with no grim undercurrents.
It’s simple enough for kids to enjoy it, it throws a little macabre humor at you via Lumalee (Juliet Jelenic), and it looks good. Not glorious, but definitely good. The game-like levels definitely go on for too long and you feel each of those scant 92 minutes, but it’s a pretty good time.
The Super Mario Bros. Movie feels to me like a fitting celebration of a series of beloved video games. But what do I know? As a movie, it’s perfectly entertaining.