30 years after the first attempt, Nintendo with the help of Illumination nailed it with The Super Mario Bros. Movie.
Video game movies aren’t supposed to work. That’s been the saying for as long as video games have existed. That is, until the last several years. Things have finally looked up, Sonic the Hedgehog 1 & 2, and Detective Pikachu. These movies did not just make money at the box office, but audiences generally enjoyed them. The Super Mario Bros. Movie is the best adaptation of a video game yet. The direction, animation, and music all work together to honor and elevate what they are pulling from without feeling pandering. They don’t need some gimmick to get people to buy into the movie. This IS the Super Mario Bros.
For fans of Mario games, and Nintendo in general, prepare to feast upon so many references hidden throughout the movie from characters to background chimes. For those who only know Mario on a very loose basis don’t worry, the movie has gorgeous animation and classic music outside the world of video games that help set the tone from scene to scene. The movie is also quite hilarious. Which makes sense when you have a cast of so many comedic actors. Charlie Day as Luigi and Jack Black as Bowser were big standouts for me, which is not to say that the rest of the cast does not do an excellent job. The funniest character for me was the blue star Lumalee. That sadistic cute star was the best. Along with some of the best animation I have seen, the score is such a love letter to so many Mario and Nintendo game themes. I really hope they release that score on streaming platforms because it deserves to be heard again and again and again.
If there was one thing that didn’t work for me, it was the unfortunate effect of having a 90-minute movie. The movie moves fast, a bit too fast. There were many scenes that jumped past connective tissue points that at times could feel slightly jarring. In all fairness, they never really ruined the basic plot that this movie was aiming for, but it just felt like if they would have tacked on 10 more minutes to the runtime it would have done wonders to smooth out some transition points between big scenes.
The first Super Mario Bros. movie from 1993 was one of the worst movies I have ever seen. It feels so good to know that future generations will now live in a world where a genuinely great Mario movie exists. And if the packed theater I was in was any indication, they won’t just have one, the foundation is in place to make so many more Mario-themed movies. Nintendo, Illumination, if you keep up this attention to detail, keep them coming. Alright, I need to go play a Mario game now.