by James Coulter
The Super Mario Bros. Movie earned $204.6 million at the domestic box office and $377 million worldwide on its opening weekend, making it the second-biggest debut for an animated movie. Is it any wonder that an animated movie based on the most popular video game ever broke box office records?
Apparently so! Because the first attempt at a Super Mario Bros. movie in 1993 bombed at the box office so badly that it dissuaded Nintendo from making theatrical adaptations of its video games until recently.
Of course, it didn’t help that the 1993 movie had absolutely nothing to do with the Mario games. And it helped a lot that the new animated flick was produced and supervised directly by Shigeru Miyamoto himself to ensure it had everything to do with the Mario games.
Unfortunately, despite earning big at the box office, the new Super Mario Bros. Movie has left critics feeling mixed with an overall score of 57 percent–which isn’t bad, but it’s not great either. So what’s the final score? Is the Mario Movie a 1-Up? Or will we find a good Mario movie in another film?
Mario and Luigi are brothers living in Brooklyn starting their own plumbing company. However, things quickly go down the drain—quite literally!—when the brothers find a green warp pipe that splits them apart, sending Mario to the Mushroom Kingdom and Luigi straight into the clutches of Bowser. Now Mario needs to team up with Toad and Princess Peach, along with some help from Donkey Kong, to save Luigi and the Mushroom Kingdom from Bowser and his Koopa army. Will Mario save the day, or—well, you’ve all played a Mario game before, so you know what happens!
This movie’s undeniable selling point is the video game references. While the 1993 live-action Mario movie had almost nothing to do with the Mario games, this animated film does not want you to forget what video game it’s based on. Every little detail, from the fantastical Mushroom Kingdom setting that perfectly incorporates game elements into its environment, to the soundtrack playing iconic musical cues from the games, to all the Easter eggs Nintendo fans will undoubtedly have fun spotting, this movie is a true love letter to the Super Mario franchise. If you love Super Mario Bros., this movie will remind you of everything you love about playing those games.
However, therein lies the rub. Because as fun as these video game references are (and, undeniably, they are!), they’re pretty much the only thing this movie has going for it.
While the live-action 1993 movie almost had nothing to do with the games, this animated flick tries so hard to be like the games that it places everything else like story and characters on the back burner. This movie essentially uses its story as a conveyer belt to deliver a non-stop onslaught of blatant references that only hardcore fans of the games will recognize and appreciate. Otherwise, they’re left with a very basic plot with very basic characters.
Don’t get me wrong. I had fun watching this movie. I grew up playing the Mario games. My first console was a Super Nintendo with Super Mario World. This movie was made for me. And, again, I enjoyed every second of it. I loved being able to appreciate the game references and spot all of the various Easter eggs. This movie is faithful to the Mario games, and it’s probably the most faithful theatrical video game adaptation to date.
So, the kid in me loved watching this movie. The adult, however, admittedly knows when he’s being pandered to. This movie was a giant member berry dessert. (Member the Ice Flower. Member the Tanooki suit. Member Rainbow Road). It’s a movie that tickles your nostalgia and reminds you why you love what you love. And, undeniably, member berries are yummy.
Otherwise, the movie’s pretty basic. If you’ve ever played a Mario game, you know how this movie will play out. Mario is going to save the day and defeat Bowser. As for the characters, well, they’re pretty decent adaptations of the video game characters and the voice actors do a decent job playing them.
Overall, if you’ve ever played Super Mario Bros., or you have kids, or both, this movie will be a fun distraction. This movie does an excellent job of being a Mario game turned into a movie. And, best of all, at only 90 minutes, it’s nice and short. (That may be weird praise, but after having to sit through movies that are more than two to three hours long, it’s nice to have a movie with a reasonable run time!)
What else can I say but, “Wahoo!”