As a long-time fan of all things Nintendo, I was eager to see an animated Super Mario movie as it has been something I’ve been curious to see for a while and that day has finally come. Here we see the tale of the Mario brothers Mario and Luigi, plumbers trying to run their own business in New York when disaster strikes and they find themselves in a new world called the Mushroom Kingdom. The brothers are separated and Mario must find a way to save Luigi before it’s too late.
So right away I want to talk about the story. If you’ve played a Mario game it’s clear that the games don’t have much of a story at all just a few minutes of content to show why Mario has to go through various levels to get to Bowser. Clearly, a movie will need a little bit more than that so we do get a little bit of a back story for the Mario brothers, Bowser, and the Mushroom Kingdom but only just enough to advance the plot. Normally I heavily critic movies with simplistic stories, but in this case, it’s actually perfect. Putting too much story here deviates too much from what we know and love from the Mario franchise and simplifying the story here made room to focus on what really made this movie so special, the callbacks to the entire history of Mario.
Throughout the movie, you’ll see references to moments from all kinds of Mario games. Not just the main titles like Super Mario Odyssey or the original Super Mario game, but also references to games like Mario Kart and Super Smash Brothers. If that wasn’t enough the movie has some subtle and not-so-subtle references to Nintendo games other than Mario which was a surprising but very amusing thing indeed. It was like they went in with the idea of how could they make a call back to a video game in every scene and piece it together to make a cohesive movie. Plus seeing the aspects that made the Mario games great in movie format was a lot of fun. We got to see classic moments in Mario games from a first-person perspective so it felt like seeing these familiar moments in an all-new life. I was grinning through so much of the movie just looking for where they added a clever reference to the games so for long-time fans of the franchise you’re going to really want to keep a sharp eye out for them all. This is easily where a lot of the heart and soul of the movie lies because some of the most iconic moments in the movie were based on just how beautifully the in game moments were reimagined for the big screen.
The animation quality was really good as well which really isn’t shocking considering the track record Illumination has. The mushroom kingdom looks absolutely gorgeous and they really made sure to make everything very colorful and vibrant which is exactly what I was hoping for. It looks so amazing I am hoping I can get my hands on some kind of movie promo poster to hang on my wall.
The characters themselves were all great. Even though we rarely see any of the characters talk for an extended period of time in the games the history of the Mario franchise has established very distinct characteristics for each and every one of them. For example Mario is clearly brave and a protective brother while Luigi is more timid and dependent by nature. The way these characters were brought to life really respected these pre established characteristics and it really felt like the actual Mario brothers.
Now for the part, I’ve been saving till towards the end, the voice acting. Naturally, this has been the subject of a lot of debate since the movie went with new voices for our beloved Nintendo characters. For the most part, I neither loved nor hated the voice acting. It was at a level where I enjoyed the characters but where they were clearly different than what I’m used to over a long history of playing the games I really didn’t expect to be wowed by the acting when it resulted in a different interpretation of the characters. With that being said there is one exception and that is Bowser. Jack Black’s natural charisma is on full blast as he was amazing. I know Bowser’s goal is to steal Princess Peach but in the process, he stole every scene he was in. This is easily one of my favorite interpretations of Bowser of all time.
So overall to say I loved this movie would be an understatement. It was like revisiting my entire history with the Super Mario Brothers in less than two hours and it was wonderful. The animation, the call backs and the characters were all amazing and while they had new actors for these well established characters they did a good enough job at their roles that it still felt like it well represented the source material with the voice of Bowser going above and beyond to bring new life to this character. With that being said it’s clear to me that I loved this movie because of how well it took iconic moments from the video games that included Mario and combined them to a narrative that brilliantly told a story from start to finish. I can’t help but wonder if my emotional attachment to the franchise is what made me love this movie so much and how entertaining this movie would be to someone who did have any kind of experience with the games. If you’re a fan of the Mario franchise to any degree though I highly insist you watch this movie as you will not be disappointed.