It’s a Mario Movie!
'The Super Mario Bros. Movie' is nothing less than a fun romp … and nothing more, either.
This must be Nintendo Appreciation Month. I just covered Tetris, and now it’s Mario’s turn. And really, there’s not a whole lot to say here, so this one gets a quick web-only post. (I wouldn’t be doing justice to pop culture’s premier plumbers if I clogged your inbox.)
Nostalgia pulled me into the theater. When I was six or so, before I was all in on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, I was all in on the Super Mario Brothers. All those hours of playing the Nintendo games wired an appreciation for this strange world into my head. I was exactly the right age for the Super Mario Bros. Super Show when it aired, and I was hooked on the brothers.
The new Super Mario Bros. Movie targets the same age group, as it should. Mario was never meant for adults. But given the number of adults who grew up on Nintendo, a Mario movie is a prime opportunity for the whole family to have fun together.
So, while the kids enjoy the fast-paced adventure, adults can enjoy the animation style and the numerous references to classic video games. Playful nods and Easter eggs abound. The whole thing looks, sounds, and feels exactly as it should.
Composer Brian Tyler does an excellent job weaving the classic Nintendo themes into the soundtrack; their inclusion always feels organic and appropriate. Visually, the Mushroom Kingdom is the Mushroom Kingdom—no Hollywood-style reinvention going on here (like we got thirty years ago). The characters appear in their most classic, recognizable incarnations.
There’s little in the way of modern updates. The humor is more contemporary, but in a clean, family-friendly way. The most “adult” running gag comes courtesy of a humorously nihilistic Kirby, of all characters. There’s also a spot-on Mario 1 reference that kids won’t get, but their parents who played the game will be amused.
Toad has graduated from sidekick to comedic sidekick. Princess Peach may be a bit more assertive and a lot more energetic, but let’s remember—outside of the very first NES game, she was never a mere damsel in distress. In the game Super Mario Bros. 2, she was an equal participant in the action, and she was only character who could float, making her a popular choice for boys and girls alike. Thus, Thoroughly Modern Peach is very much in line with Classic Peach. And Bowser is musical now. That’s about it as far as modernizing.
The whole movie is just shamelessly Super Mario Bros. It makes no apologies for its origins. Rather, it celebrates the past while introducing the characters and world to a whole new generation.
When an adaptation is embarrassed by its source material, awkwardness results (see the 1993 Mario movie … or rather, don’t). When an adaptation has the confidence to be itself, it invites everyone in on the fun.
To be clear, there’s no greatness here. This is a straight-up children’s movie that will raise some smiles in adults, but few adults will have any desire to ever rewatch it. Older kids probably won’t either.
This movie lacks the magic of the best Disney or Pixar films. It has no depth whatsoever, nor any meaningful life lessons to impart. It could have aimed a little higher without losing the youngsters—there’s a missed opportunity there. And I’m hardly the first to say this, but let me join in the chorus: Can soundtracks please take a break from using “Holding Out for a Hero”? It was just used in Shazam! Fury of the Gods and Tetris, among plenty of other movies. (It’s a great song, but no song is that great.)
Like the Shazam! sequel, there’s ample room for improvement, but if you take it for what it is, there’s also a lot to like. (That won’t be enough for every movie, though, and it shouldn’t be.) More important in this case, there’s a lot for kids to like.
The Super Mario Bros. Movie is the very definition of a fun romp, and that’s what it’s here for. It probably won’t win any Oscars, but it will delight children and amuse old-school Mario fans.
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