‘The Super Mario Bros. Movie’ Levels Up the 36-Year-Old Franchise


Skyller Liu

Though slandered by a critic score of 53% on Rotten Tomatoes, “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” manages to incorporate notes of tasteful humor authentic to the series’ 36 years of history.

Mario and Luigi come to life in the vibrant, imaginative and breathtaking animated box office debut of “The Super Mario Bros. Movie.” 

After decades of Goomba stomping and shell smashing, Mario has become one of the most iconic characters in video game history, so the game’s adaptation to the big screen raised high expectations for fans. Though the movie’s plot and complexity may be fairly shallow considering the archetypal “hero’s journey” the film follows it serves as an immaculate encapsulation of the beloved Mario franchise by adding a new dimension to its world and characters.

“The Super Mario Bros. Movie” reinterprets the generic “save the princess” plot of most Mario games and instead follows Mario as he journeys from Brooklyn across the otherworldly lands of the Mushroom Kingdom to reunite with his brother, Luigi. 

Though the movie’s story may seem plain on the surface, its simplicity embodies that of a true Mario game: a colorful, exciting adventure with innovative and visionary world-building. Animation powerhouse Illumination Entertainment delights both long-time fans and newcomers to the franchise by depicting the various Mario kingdoms with dynamic frames of color and stunning cinematography. 

These stellar visuals are complemented by the film’s incredible soundtrack, arguably one of the greatest contributors to the film’s nostalgic feel. The film faithfully incorporates delightful musical motifs from of the Mario franchise’s most iconic musical scores, reimagining hits such as “The Mario Rap” from the 1989 television series “The Super Mario Bros. Super Show!”, “Airship Armada” from the 2007 game “Super Mario Galaxy” and the main selection music from the 2014 game “Mario Kart 8,” among many others.

In addition to the musical allusions, the film provides a smorgasbord of visual gags and deep-cut video game references, albeit at the sacrifice of a coherent plot. 

One of the movie’s most notable flaws is its pacing; it is an extremely fast-paced adventure befitting a Mario game but achieved at the expense of character development and depth. Audience members will certainly not feel bored during the film but may have difficulty finding themselves connecting to the characters. 

Though the audience’s potential enjoyment of the film relies on whether or not they have nostalgia for the franchise, the movie still holds its own in providing audiences with fresh and exciting experiences.

A notable standout is Jack Black’s performance as the menacing yet lovable villain, Bowser. Black combines his iconic comedic chops with his effortless charisma to steal viewers’ hearts. Most notably, Black performs a power ballad/love anthem titled “Peaches” in the film; the song’s music video received over 12 million views within a week.

All in all, Mario has had a plethora of game titles, and the movie manages to pay homage nearly all of them in clever ways. The film is sure to delight lifelong fans, but many of the more subtle references may be lost on those with little attachment to the iconic Brooklyn plumber.