Let's get my biases out of the way: I fucking love Super Mario. If you told a little kid me that there would be a Super Mario Bros. movie, I would have exploded on the spot. To be honest, when I heard about the movie for the first time as an adult, I was pretty close to spontaneous combustion!
...And then they started showing off the voice cast. I think this video sums up my initial thoughts well enough.
Ever since then, everything that came out about this movie swung my expectations wildly like a pendulum between "THIS MOVIE'S GONNA BE PEAK" and "this movie is going to suck eggs". The Bowser voice is good! Oh, as expected, Chris Pratt is doing what is essentially an Any% performance of the Mario voice. THE ANIMATION??? Oh no, the critic reviews say this sucks. BUT EVERYONE I KNOW SAYS IT'S PEAK!!!
I entered the theater with sobered expectations. With no idea what I would think by the end of the 98 minutes I would spend in that theater, I settled down with 6 of my friends, an entourage that I attended both Sonic movies with, prepared for absolutely nothing.
Without further ado, let's talk about the Super Mario Bros. Movie. Oh, and... spoiler warning, of course.
Let's get a couple obvious points out of the way first: this is Illumination's prettiest movie ever. (Also its best scored movie, thanks to the efforts of Koji Kondo. No notes there. We all know Koji Kondo music slaps.)
If you're a Mario fan, you'll have a field day examining every frame for references-- there's plenty hidden easter eggs if you're willing to look, even some that don't necessarily relate to Mario. The series' characters translate incredibly well to the big screen without coming across as cheap. Every character is so expressive from their head to their toes. The world that surrounds them is colorful and captivating in a way that makes you want to crawl inside the screen just to explore it.
So why, oh why, do we hardly ever get enough time to soak it all in?
The rumors are true, the pacing of the story SUCKS. The moment that Mario travels to the Mushroom Kingdom for the first time, it's all over. While you can still follow the plot, it moves just a little too fast, leaving you completely breathless while you hopelessly chase after it. An extra 10 minutes could have served this movie well. (Some fans are hoping for an extended cut. I'm not sure if that will happen, per se, but I would like to see it.)
The breakneck pace of the movie also causes its dialogue to suffer. Many of the more serious or dramatic moments are undercut by the writing. The only way I could possibly describe it in the moment was that half of the lines sound like trailer dialogue, even when surrounded by the context of the scene.
Despite this, the humor is on the whole very good, especially for Illumination's standards. A standout scene for me in particular was when Mario and Donkey Kong were in the eel's stomach, and it looked like they were about to bond over shared dad-based trauma-- before they turn around and start fighting each other. Honestly, it's iconic. I'm all for personal growth, but it's so much more entertaining when people fight each other about their problems. It beats uncharacteristic therapy dialogue any day.
Mario and Donkey Kong in particular were characters that I wasn't expecting to like. I mean, there's no way I could take Seth Rogen or Chris Pratt seriously in their roles, right? Well, I'm proud to say I was wrong. Donkey Kong was hilarious. The classic Rogen laugh honestly fits him super well, better than I expected (I counted 2 gags that used it?). Pratt's Mario is expressive and honestly endearing, even if he could put more "oomph" into the voice work. It's nice to see a Mario who cares so much about his brother despite constantly being measured up against him. :')
I don't think I was particularly annoyed by any one character, even the Luma that I thought I was going to hate. I'm generally pretty pleased with the character work, even if it doesn't make much sense that Cranky Kong is a king, and Peach's girlboss moments were heavily spotlighted in a way that felt somewhat unearned.
Speaking of minor errors, there were a few strange continuity bits that stuck out to me while I watched. One that comes to mind is that Bowser miraculously came to know Mario and Luigi's names despite having no way to earn this intel. I have to imagine that this could be fixed in an extended cut.
Over all, I think this movie is a 7/10 for me-- oh, what? Hold on guys, I'm getting a call...
Huh? What do you mean, they didn't credit Grant Kirkhope for the DK Rap?
6/10 for you, Mario. Do better.