‘Super Mario Bros’ falls short of super

Lauren Rayner, Managing Editor

Ilumination’s newest animated flick has finally hit theaters, scoring big box-office wise and among families with the highly anticipated “Super Mario Bros. Movie”, an exciting comedy-adventure based on the 40-year-old video game franchise. A difficult task to manage, the movie was forced to fight to appeal to children, their parents and Mario’s intense fan base looking to see their treasured video game in a new medium. It had seemed to only be a matter of time before these beloved characters hit the big screen, but whether it was done right, however, is still conflicting.

With the stacked cast being dramatically revealed online years prior to the release, “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” had become highly anticipated, as there were a few unusual and funny picks to voice the Nintendo characters. Some highlights of the absurdity include Seth Rogen as Donkey Kong, Charlie Day as Luigi, Jack Black as Bowser, who was great, and controversially, Chris Pratt as the star of the show, Mario. Many were rightfully skeptical of Pratt’s ability, including me, but his voice-acting performance ended up surpassing “terrible” and ended up “just fine.” Pratt most likely wouldn’t be anyone’s first pick for the part. His attempt at Mario frankly took a bit to get used to, but it eventually becomes easy to get past and enjoy the rest of the movie. It was popular to argue that Charles Martinet, the voice actor for Mario in the games, should have fulfilled the role, but in all honesty, it would have been hard to stay entertained hearing the actual voice of Mario for an entire film-length runtime. Game-Mario speaks in exclamations and noises practically, not full-on monologues that would carry the movie forward. Pratt was passable, and it genuinely could have been worse. There was no Italian accent provided by him or Charlie Day’s Luigi. Instead, it was generally really fun to see the interpretations of each character by each respected voice actor, Seth Rogen’s laugh exiting Donkey Kong’s mouth included.

Story-wise, it is a cookie-cutter adventure where Mario and his brother transport into a new magical world after a risky plumbing job, woefully ending up separated later down the road. Mario’s job then becomes to brawl against the notorious super villain, Bowser, to stop him from conquering the world, while also trying to find his captured brother. Throughout the film, the viewer is basically taken down memory lane, as Mario enters familiar games, meets familiar characters, and absorbs typical Mario-franchise tools and objects. It is undoubtedly simple, but probably the right path for this kind of movie. To make a complicated plot for a movie targeting young kids would not make sense, especially with a game known for its accessibility and plain fun.

Seeing the iconic characters in a cinematic form was undeniably magical. There were plenty of action sequences, and although the run time was quick, it was truly never that boring. The animation style was pretty standard, but was at least a step up for Illumination and was nicely colorful and pleasing to the eye. “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” provided an entertaining time altogether. It maybe doesn’t have broad appeal to teenagers and adults like a Pixar movie would, but for the children it is targeting, it is fun and full of energy, and probably something they would want to watch over and over again. It’s got the jokes, the characters, and the spark that kids would really want in a movie.

It may seem silly to dig into a so-far well-liked movie made for young ones, but it just could have done a lot more with the material offered. At times it felt like the film was trying to cram every Mario game and reference into it without reason, making the whole thing feel lazy and incoherent. The humor didn’t necessarily land for me either, but as mentioned earlier, will match the target audience’s taste. The movie still managed to leave out a lot of fan-favorite characters too, even with the over-referencing and cramming of it all. The whole thing is a conventional, repetitive joy ride that doesn’t offer what it could of in the hands of another studio, and will almost definitely lead to more cash-grab sequels that hardly capture the spirit of the original video game franchise.

Animated movies have the power to impact people of all ages, not just children, and even those made with characters children specifically adore can be significant, meaningful pieces of filmmaking that adults can love just as much as their younger peers. “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” is a perfect example of an animated feature with wasted potential, that knew its easiest accomplishment was reaching kids and ignoring high-quality, substantial filmmaking. While enjoyable and flashy at the moment, the film will unquestionably lose all charm and earn “forgettable flop” status as the years go on.