Sunday 7 January 2024

Movie Review - The Super Mario Bros. Movie

As I've said many times before, and as most people certainly know, video games and movies don't often blend well; adaptations of even remarkably acclaimed games have led to the birth of some of the worst films ever made, with the original Super Mario Bros. film from 1993 being a notable example. It's clear the zany premise of Mario's universe wasn't apt for grim a live action setting, and so the next attempt at bringing him to the big screen is a colourfully animated affair; the end result is undeniably superior to the aforementioned atrocity from 30 years ago, but that's not saying an awful lot at the end of the day.

The story begins with our iconic protagonists Mario (Chris Pratt) and Luigi (Charlie Day) and their attempts to kickstart their own plumbing business within New York City, but things take an unexpected turn when one of their jobs results in them being transported to the magical Mushroom Kingdom, governed by the elegant Princess Peach (Anya Taylor-Joy) and under threat from the evil Koopa king Bowser (Jack Black), who also captures Luigi and locks him away as one of his many prisoners. Mario consequently finds himself on a mission to save his brother and put an end to Bowser's attempts to seize the kingdom as well as Peach's hand in marriage.

Pratt's casting was of course met with controversy, but in the end he actually does a decent job; let's face it, while Charles Martinet has always pronounced some of Mario's most iconic phrases with an equally iconic voice, it's a voice that works better in small doses, and probably not one you'd want to hear speaking lengthy lines of dialogue across a 90 minute film. Pratt brings Mario to life with a fitting accented voice which occasionally shifts to a higher pitch to resemble Martinet's iconic voice for certain iconic lines; while such moments are slightly crude, they're also fairly amusing. When it comes to the rest of the cast, Charlie Day does a decent job as Luigi, though it's a shame to see the character largely shunted aside for the majority of the film as naught but a cowardly hostage, and Jack Black is not bad as Bowser; however, I didn't find him to be as remarkable as most claimed, though it seems neither he or the majority of the supporting cast had overly rich material to work with due to the film's mediocre script.

The Super Mario Bros. Movie's perks only really stem from its aesthetics and humour; when it comes to storytelling and characters, there's a lot to be desired. Mario himself isn't too memorable and Luigi barely turns up, but the biggest offenders are perhaps Peach and Bowser, with the former merely being a cringeworthy attempt to tick all the feminist protocol boxes: sarcastic and overly badass, whose mighty skills put the men around her to shame. Certainly nothing wrong with trying to flesh out her character a little more, but the writer's attempts at providing her with some backstory come and go with no impact, making her once again just crude role model for insecure young girls. As for Bowser, he's simply there to make endless jokes about how much he loves Peach, and has no threatening appeal whatsoever despite Jack Black's best efforts. When it comes to the likes of Donkey Kong (Seth Rogen) and Toad (Keegan-Michael Key), they merely adopt a number of generic, overly silly and tired character clich├ęs and consequently feel like parodies of their original selves that most will barely remember.

This isn't a bad film at the end of the day; it once again offers a number of amusing jokes (though also an excessive overuse of slow motion ones), some solid vocal performances, a decent soundtrack and clever references to the video games that inspired it, but such qualities will only garner the interest of younger viewers or Mario diehards. When it comes to people outside of this demographic, there's not much to really keep them hooked, and as the film goes on it ultimately becomes more and more boring and predictable. In the end I thought Sonic did a better job with his movie debut; it was no masterpiece, but certainly a lot funnier and more engaging than this amusing yet repetitive adventure.