How super is ‘The Super Mario Bros. Movie’?

‘The Super Mario Bros.’ is love letter to fans, leaves casual fans longing for more substance

Trayton Pike, Staff Writer

(From Left to Right) Mario (Chris Pratt), Princess Peach (Anya Taylor Joy), and Toad (Keegan- Michael Key in Nintendo and Illumination’s The Super Mario Bros. Movie, directed by Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic courtesy of Nintendo; Illumination Entertainment & Universal Pictures.

Of all the films that have been and are slated to be released in 2023, few have received as much hype, anticipation and success as “The Super Mario Bros. Movie,” which hit theaters on April 5. 

The movie has already shattered box office records in the short time it has been in theaters, grossing about $400 million worldwide. However, it seems to have left a mixed response from viewers. While critics claim to hate it, Mario fans feel it has been worth the wait. With such a divided response, who can say which side is right? 

At its core, “The Super Mario Bros. Movie,” is a faithful adaptation of the video games, impressively encompassing over 40 years’ worth of video games and content from the Mario Bros. franchise in a single 90-minute movie. 

The plot itself closely follows the standard premise of a Mario game, with the titular character, Mario (Chris Pratt) going off on an adventure to save the Mushroom Kingdom from Bowser (Jack Black) and his minions. One of the big reasons this movie has found success with its target audience is because it feels exactly like a Mario Bros. video game. 

The only differences are that there are no controllers for audience members to wield and the action is compacted into a relatively short cinematic film. 

This movie has been eagerly anticipated by both fans who hoped for a truly faithful adaptation and those who expected nothing short of failure. Many of the negative feelings toward the movie stem from the early announcements of the voice actors. These announcements were met with surprise, cynicism and intrigue. 

Though many of the choices were surprising, those who love and hate the movie may be able to agree on at least one thing: the voice actors all did a great job. Even Chris Pratt, who was perhaps the strangest choice in the eyes of many, does an excellent job of leading the film as the titular hero.

The film seems to have divided critics, audiences and Mario Bros. fans largely due to its dedication to the source material. 

While Mario Bros. fans appear happy that this long-awaited film adaptation is essentially a cinematic love letter to the video game franchise, critics see the movie as a substandard animated film with no substance. The movie itself relies too much on references to find its success rather than providing a truly unique experience for viewers. 

For fans of video games, the countless references, characters and classic music from the games, make the movie feel like a genuine immersive experience, where their life-long adoration of the franchise is celebrated. What may have been lost on some people certainly has not been lost on fans, which is evident in the massive financial success of the “The Super Mario Bros. Movie.” 

However, it is hard to ignore the movie’s lack of consideration for casual viewers, who may have hoped for a more complex and carefully developed film that offered more than just feelings of nostalgia.  For instance, the plot and characters as they are written in the film are not anything special. Based on the lack of long-lasting impact generated by the movie, it is hard to imagine it getting nominated for any major awards or any other prestigious honors. 

Overall, “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” is not a movie for everyone and will not please all who see the movie. The key audience is Mario Bros. fans, who have openly expressed their love for the movie. For them, this movie is perfect, but for someone who has never held a console controller before or is looking for a unique movie, “The Super Mario Bros. Movie,” may not be as “super” as the famous characters emulated within it.