The Super Mario Bros. Movie
By: Adam Freed
Creating full length animation that meets the diverse needs of an entire family is difficult. Despite this challenge, writing and animating a film that weaves meaningful themes capable of being appreciated by adults while simultaneously engaging and transporting young audiences can be done. Recent history is rich with outstanding examples of animated entertainment that reaches this higher stratosphere. In 2022 alone Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, The Sea Beast, and Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio, are all proof that excellence in animation is possible. Children are capable of appreciating a complex story arc and connecting to themes. Sadly, this elevated standard is not met by a pair of globally recognizable plumbers, who open to thousands of screens this weekend.
The Super Mario Bros. Movie feels like a set of loosely connected vignettes used only to introduce static characters who dance beneath an unending meteor shower of self reverential video game references. Mario Bros. isn’t completely without merit as the animation team at Illumination studios (Sing, Despicable Me) have once again created glittering and visually stimulating worlds, sure to please younger viewers. The vocal talent acquisition behind the film (Chris Pratt, Anya Taylor-Joy, Jack Black) should also be commended, but this shouldn't be surprising considering the collective budget of Illumination and Nintendo. The shame is that the talents of these actors are rarely revealed, minus tapping into the musical comedy of Jack Black's Bowser.
The bottom line is that fans of Mario and Luigi deserve better. Based on the success of other family franchises, even those under the same production banner, have been presented with much more care, life and respect for audiences. The most damning to the Nintendo / Illumination marriage is that even Mario Bros. nemesis Sonic the Hedgehog has starred in far superior recent films. In a world of fluid lifelike video game play, The Mario Bros. Movie simply comes across as 8-bit.