I remember being in 2nd grade (1992), my brother was visiting and walked me down to our local Subway for a sandwich. We used to order our hero then play as a hero on the arcade while we waited for our order. That hero was Mario in Super Mario World. A few months later, I wouldn’t have to go outside to see Mario & Luigi. They were in my living room on the Super Nintendo. I remembered how big a difference the game looked compared to its predecessor Super Mario Bros on the Nintendo Entertainment System. Thirty-one years later, I think the same thing again while watching The Super Mario Bros. Movie.
Before I get into this review, let’s give respect to where it’s due. The first Mario Bros. related movie was the 1993 live-action Super Mario Brothers: The Movie. Feel however you want about it. Good or bad, it happened. But thirty years later, Universal Pictures said, “Gentlemen, we can rebuild them. We have the technology… ” and that they freaking did. The Super Mario Bros. Movie does an incredible job of translating the lore from the Super Mario franchise on screen while also knowing when to deviate. The movie is filled with homages, Easter eggs, and most importantly a great time for friends and family.
The Super Mario Bros. Movie: Back Again for the First Time
We meet the not yet iconic Mario (Chris Pratt) and Luigi (Charles Day) as two plumbers in modern day Brooklyn (Buk Buk / Fire Flower SFX x 2) trying to strike it out on their ownn. They put out a very campy (but earnest) commercial for their plumbing business, and we see their old boss Mike laughing in their freaking faces. From jump, we see the courage and love Mario has as he defends his brother from Mike’s insults. It’s established early on that both brothers are underdogs. Mario for his small stature, Luigi for his fear, and both of them for dreaming big.
When the brothers get their first client, we see them navigate through the busy streets of Brooklyn. Mario been out here competing in Red Bull parkour tournaments cause that man can freaking move, while Luigi careful and less gracefully trails behind him. Things get messy with the client which leads to our protagonists feeling down. Their family (aside from their mom) doesn’t do much to help either. A major leak on the news is what gets the events of the movie underway. In trying to fix this leak that threatens to flood Brooklyn, Mario and Luigi get sucked through a warp zone pipe into a whole new world and then separated.
Mario lands in the mushroom kingdom where he befriends Toad (Keegan-Michael Key), while Luigi lands in the territory of the big bad Bowser (Jack Black). It is here where Mario learns of Bowser trying to take over Mushroom Kingdom which means he’s gotta find a way to rescue his brother.
Princess Peach Ain’t in Another Castle She in the Building
I mentioned earlier how things are different from Mario lore we grew up with. The Princess Peach (Anya Taylor-Joy) we meet in The Super Mario Bros. Movie ain’t no damsel in distress from the video games. She’s Super Smash Bros. gang gang. Princess Peach got hands like you wouldn’t believe and here she is the one that trains Mario for survival in this world. We see Mario trying to platform in a tester course and coming close to getting it but not quite. As opposed to Peach who grew up in Mushroom Kingdom. Let’s put it this way, if there was an Olympics in Mushroom Kingdom, then Princess Peach is Carl Lewis and Flo Jo. Peach is shown to be a great leader an ambassador for her people.
Through the movie, Princess Peach is really in her Kuvira the Great Uniter bag… just without the fascisism and locking people up. Mario is the main protagonist of this movie, but we see Princess Peach legit getting busy throughout the film. Of course, Mario is going to have his moments of triumph, but I am very happy to see that Princess Peach who is from the mushroom kingdom, was raised in the mushroom kingdom, is portrayed as a strong character that has “Mushroom Kingdom” tatted across the belly (metaphorically) as a leader that rolls up her sleeves and gets to work for her kingdom. This was a great pivot from the lore we know and a liberty for all the right reasons. I mean the absolute same can be said for Bowser as well because looooooooooooooord.
A Villain Ya Luv 2 Luv
I mean Jack Black’s Bowser… What can’t I even say, man?! Bowser doesn’t really speak much (until Mario Sunshine), so it’s not only funny but cool to see Jack Black use his comedic range with this character but also show that even when being funny, Bowser is still a sinister problem. Bowser’s whole motivation for getting a certain item and seeking Peach out for a specific reason may feel like a deviation from the lore, or as if fan theory is coming into play, but Nintendo never truly specified why Bowser kidnaps Princess Peach in the game. The only deviation here is that Bowser isn’t a one note evil villain. I see that as a good thing. Who doesn’t love a villain with range?
If anything, Bowser displays some low key elements of that 80s villain toxic masculinity in a funny way. This Bowser sees Princess Peach as a damsel, gets jealous at her walking round with Mario, believes an item and his show of power will win her over…. all while in a Diddy all white part suit and top hat. You gotta love’em man. I keep focusing on his range but when he sings, when he’s practicing how he will approach Princess Peach, all these humorous things that get dropped at the drop of a (top) hat when Bowser shows folks whose really in charge here.
I love a villain that can switch in an instant between goofy and “I am a whole threat to you.” Bowser is as big and as bad as we remember from video games, and this is a final boss that will beat the plumbing outta ya. This is a villain that is a threat, ain’t no redemption for him (I mean maybe in later movies), and ain’t no qualms about it. Bowser is here to take what he wants, consequences and mustached men be damned.
The Gang is All Here
There are a lot of faves from Super Mario that appear in the movie as well. I ain’t even get into my guy Donkey Kong (Seth Rogen). My primate’s entrance was spectacular, and I’m so happy that he and Mario were beefing on sight. Toad is such a fave cause he is really here and bout that action, and that’s all he’s got to say about that. Oooooh, and how at first, I felt bad for Luigi, but by the end with his own lil arc, I was screaming for the Player 2 / Younger Sibling Gawd! The Easter eggs and homages didn’t feel forced in this movie (to me at least). One of my favorite things was seeing the boxers from Super Punch out as celebs in the Punch Out Pizzeria at the beginning of the movie.
Which brings me to how the background and environment feel like their own character in the movie as well. The way Mario, Peach, Donkey Kong, and Luigi interact with moving around their surroundings is already dope but to then see the camera move out then reposition itself so that the screen becomes a 2-D side scroller? Come on man. Little intricacies like that kept me engaged and also just lemme know when we reached an “it ain’t sweet” moment. Visually, this movie is just amazing and don’t even get me started on Rainbow Road! I mean, the Mario Kart folk know what it is! I’m just saying Fast & Furious is a cool franchise, but Mario and the gang were catching bodies on a whole rainbow. I–*throws hands up* there’s levels to this racing and I live my life one dropped banana peel at a time.
Listen this is a movie for adults, children, teens, and anyone that ever rocked with them Mario Bros. This movie was some thirty plus years in the making and worth the wait. If you got the time, I think this is a movie you should see because the amount of fun in it is ridiculous. This movie had to go hard but damn man, I didn’t know it was going to go THAT hard but I am big glad that they did.