April 3, 2023

CINEMA | Illumination Imagines 'The Super Mario Bros. Movie'

"Time, like hope, is an illusion."
Jack Black Anya Taylor-Joy | The Super Mario Bros. Movie | Nintendo Illumination
Universal Pictures / Illumination
Based on the classic Japanese video game franchise led by Italian-American plumbers, The Super Mario Bros. Movie is Nintendo's first foray into big-budget animation after the truly dreadful 1993 live-action film. Produced by Illumination and directed by Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic, the colourful adaptation is a visually dazzling but less than imaginative animated adventure squarely aimed at kids.

Featuring the vocal talents of Chris Pratt as Mario, Charlie Day as Luigi, Anya Taylor-Joy as Princess Peach, Jack Black as Bowser, Keegan-Michael Key as Toad, and Seth Rogen as Donkey Kong, Super Mario Bros. wastes little time transporting our eponymous moustached brothers from the sewers of Brooklyn to the magical Mushroom Kingdom as the aforementioned evil turtle-like King Koopa tyrant looks to attack the fantastical territory.

There is something inherently appealing about watching a feature-length film bringing classic elements of the many video game incarnations to the big screen, but that's not enough to entirely sustain any narrative momentum on its own. It is, however, a surreally familiar experience stuffed to the brim with little details and easter eggs for fans both young and old.

Scripted by Matthew Fogel, the ninety-minute animated feature zips through its basic plot. This time, Luigi is held hostage in a reversal of the usual (and dated) damsel in distress goal of rescuing the Princess who is a much more active and competent character. Aside from the breezy fun and general sense of forward adventure, there's not a whole lot to the thinly drawn premise. In many ways, the story structure mimics the beats of a young child's likely broad recollection or telling of Super Mario.

The Super Mario Bros. Movie is extremely kid-friendly and visually fun. It's too bad how closely it sticks to the video game source material down to the choreographed action sequences replicating classic gameplay many are familiar with. Everything feels overly safe without much inventiveness or originality to its adaptation from console to screen.

More | YVArcadeIndiewire / ScreenCrush

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