‘The Super Mario Bros. Movie’ Review: There’s Not Mushroom for Improvement


Unless you’ve been one with the Amish for the past month, there’s no way that you’ve missed the release of “The Super Mario Bros. Movie.” Yes, that’s actually what they named it. 

When the star-studded cast list was first announced, many were skeptical of the movie’s quality or faithfulness to the story they were trying to tell. After all, this wasn’t the first Mario movie to have been released in the west, and there is a larger conversation being had about celebrities taking over roles that would be done better justice by professional voice actors. Among names like Anna Taylor-Joy, Jack Black, Seth Rogan, and Keegan-Michael Key; the most controversial choice (and the one the internet gleefully clutched and ran track with) was easily Chris Pratt’s selection as the voice of Mario.

Pratt is a well established actor, best known for his roles as Star-Lord/Peter Quill in Marvel’s “Guardians Of The Galaxy,” as well as playing the puppy-like Andy Dwyer in the sit-com “Parks and Recreation.” Through these roles, Pratt had developed a typecast for fun and youthful characters; traits that fans of the series did not identify with the red plumber at all.

I must say, even though I myself was apprehensive of the movie, I genuinely enjoyed myself. I had low expectations for the film, but even then I found myself skipping out of the theater feeling energized from the experience.

The movie explores the origin of the Mario bros. entrance to the Mushroom Kingdom, as well as the first meetings of several significant characters, such as Bowser, Princess Peach, and Mario himself. Using the base of the 1993 movie, we see the brothers working together as an independent plumbing company in Brooklyn, New York. After a few jobs which show us the dynamics of the brothers, as well as Mario’s proficiency for urban parkour and navigation, the movie begins to take us closer to the true plot of the story. This slower introduction and build-up makes it much more believable for the audience that this average blue collar plumber could take down a spiky turtle the size of Godzilla.

While exploring the sewers below the city to fix the flooding devastating local streets, Luigi goes missing. Searching for his younger brother, Mario finds Luigi’s flashlight alone in a large bud-green pipe. Not thinking much of it, Mario walks into the pipe to fetch the flashlight, accidentally triggering a portal in the process. Thrown through time and space, the brothers eventually unite during this comic washing machine cycle. After verifying that neither was injured, they unfortunately got torn apart, Luigi towards a volcanic and soot-dark land in the north, and Mario to a forest of mushrooms in the south.

 If you couldn’t guess, this forest is but a small part of the larger Mushroom Kingdom, ruled by the young Princess Peach Toadstool. Upon hearing about the princess, he breaks into the castle and comes face to face with the woman herself, and begs for aid in finding his brother Luigi. The princess, after hearing the story, agrees to help the desperate man in return for his help in turn. The land that Luigi fell into was ruled by King Bowser of the Koopa Kingdom, a brazen warlord known for his temper and for his nasty habit of destroying every city and monument in his path. Trying to fend off attacks from the invading army, Peach invites Mario to join her on her quest to request the aid of King Cranky Kong of the Jungle Kingdom.

Like everyone on Twitter, I absolutely adored Jack Black’s Bowser. Striking the perfect balance of cluelessness and rashness, he portrays the King with a naivety essential to his character throughout the series – his main motivation being the same as ever; to earn the hand of Princess Peach. He is lovably cartoonish in his plans to impress her – practicing songs to serenade her with, collecting powerful artifacts to awe her with, and even practicing his conversation with a body double (that of which is his almost-fatherly advisor Kamek, in a blonde wig and a familiar pink dress). Black made all the best choices in his acting, Bowser’s voice sounding strong and commanding, or smugly bashful in turn.

Of course, no movie is without its flaws. Many mourn the disappearance of Toadsworth and Toadette, Peach’s advisors, as well as the (over thirty years old now) Koopalings; Bowser’s excitable children. While I personally hope that the absence of these characters means that another film will come eventually, it should still be noted that they’re nowhere to be seen. 

While I’ve lavished praise on most of the characterization, I will say that, in all honesty, I’m rather disappointed by the direction the film and actress went with Princess Peach. While establishing her as a younger, more spunky, warrior is ten times better than the damsel in distress she was in the 80s/90s, I feel as if this was a missed opportunity. We’ve seen this character archetype for women time and time again, especially within Nintendo. I’m hoping that perhaps if we get a sequel, it will give us the opportunity to see a more mature, more in command Peach. She is the sole ruler of the entire country, after all.

The most surprisingly impactful aspect of the film was its soundtrack. Pieced together from over 40 years of Mario content – from the classic theme birthed in 1985 to snippets from the most recent “Bowsers Fury” released in 2021, there is something for every type of fan. The biggest part of my joy sitting in that theater was hearing the familiar melodies and tracks from games I’ve been playing since I could walk. Even if you’ve never played a Mario game in your life, the internet will never let you escape from the DK Rap, lovingly incorporated into Donkey Kong’s introduction, of course. Working alongside the original artist Koji Kondo, Brian Tyler transformed decades of arcade music into a cinematic score that stands just as strong on its own.


Rating? PG

Where Can You See It?  Wherever your local movie theatre is; It’s still not streaming, so it’s a great opportunity to support struggling theatres near you.

Scoring? 8.5/10

Final Thoughts? Peaches peaches peaches peaches peaches peachespeaches