The Super Mario Bros. Movie levels up in latest iteration


Illumination Studios

Nintendo and Illumination Studios capture the essence of the games in the form of an animated joy ride.

Clark Chamberlin, Opinions Editor

Sixteen hours strapped to a seat being taken to the edge of the country are quintessential memories for me. When I was much, much younger, the drive to the beach each summer had always been aided by a small collection of DVDs. The classic 1980’s cartoon The Super Mario Bros. Super Show would captivate me for hours, I can still even recite (most of) the (very good) intro theme, and, in watching the Super Mario Bros Movie, much of those warm feelings of nostalgia have been rekindled. So much so that even in writing this I’m almost tearing up remembering sitting in the back seat of the old Subaru, sleepily viewing episode after episode of Mario and Luigi’s perpetual quest to return to their home of Brooklyn, my favorite soft stuffed turtle nested cozily in my arms against my chest as I munch on some salty and sweet homemade trail mix from a small plastic cup, the quiet harmony of the car’s engine and wheels as it glides down the interstate, my brother, having passed out while watching his Scooby Doo, leaning the side of his head into the window to my right, my ears covered by plastic headphones playing the gruff, yet friendly voice of wrestling professional Lou Albano as Mario.

As I heard that same music fill my ears that had once burrowed deep into the caverns of my childhood memories, I knew that the Super Mario Bros Movie was going to be good.

The Super Mario Bros Movie can best be described as a series of action sequences and references that, despite containing exceptionally little plot, leaves the viewer never once bored or disinterested. Watching the fat Italian duck, weave, and dive through intricate settings captures the same sense of excitement as playing the games do. If you enjoy the games, you’ll enjoy the film.

All of this has to be driven of course by fittingly bombastic music, and composer Brian Tyler more than delivered with a mix of original composition and Koji Kondo’s classics that never failed to feel out of place or inadequate. Once or twice a licensed song is included somewhere that it doesn’t feel quite natural, but on the whole the sound design is incredible.

Speaking of sound, (most of) the voice actors were nothing short of spectacular. Chris Pratt did a fine job as Mario, Charlie Day was a wonderful Luigi, Seth Rogen’s Donkey Kong fit the character like a glove, Anya Taylor-Joy gave Peach far more personality than she’s ever seen before in Nintendo media, but the real MVPs were Jack Black as Bowser and Keegan-Michael Key as Toad. Black managed to capture the dark and evil, yet goofy and lovable essense of Bowser magnificently, the Koopa King has never been seen so full of life and personality. Ironically, despite being nothing but a generic “bad guy” in the games, Bowser may have been the most varied character of the film, with the greatest demonstrated emotional range, every moment of which was beautifully orchestrated by Black’s larynx. Similarly, Key’s take on Toad perfectly matched the character, despite not sounding as he typically does in modern mario games: like a cat in a woodchipper. His talent as a comedian helped him to fully commit to delivering his lines perfectly for the frequent comical moments of the character, elevating Toad from what is often considered one of the most annoying to one of the most charming Nintendo characters. Black and Key both should most certainly receive the highest voice acting awards for their marvelous performances.

The visual design as well was nothing short of fantastic. Despite being a corporation that has for over a decade now repeatedly generated terrible movies designed solely to get money from fans of glorified yellow tic-tacs, the soulless Illumination knows how to make something look good, and by God did they make the Super Mario Bros Movie look good. Everything was just as bright and vibrant as one would expect from a movie in the Mushroom Kingdom, but it still kept from becoming so over-saturated it’d make one’s eyes bleed. Every tiny reflection and refraction of light is perfectly placed, despite the cartoonish art-style the textures of objects were still distinct and wonderfully crafted, animations were smooth and easy to follow while still being swift and visually impressive, this film is what I would take if I were to hop in a time machine to back to the times of Toy Story to show off how far computer graphics will come.

Watching this movie made me feel like my Dad. Children’s movies are always filled with references and callbacks to what the parents remember from when they were young, and being able to identify things as subtle as the exact movements of a pivotal action sequence being nearly identical to the movements of episode nine of the 1995 anime Neon Genesis Evangelion was surreal, but wholly enjoyable. It’s blatantly obvious that even if this movie was made for profit, it was made out of love and the people behind it genuinely cared about making it nothing short of the fullest expression of the term “fun.” This movie will not change your life, but it will certainly brighten your day.

The Super Mario Bros Movie gets a box of cannolis and a half-eaten pasta fazool out of ten, and I hope to see the team behind it collaborate further with Nintendo on more projects like this. Watch it.