“The Super Mario Bros. Movie” Jumps Above Expectations


Jei Jandura

“The Super Mario Bros. Movie” was released in theaters on April 5.

Jei Jandura, Features Editor

The 2023 film “Super Mario Bros. Movie” was a shockingly good movie. When the movie was announced all the way back in September of 2021, many other Mario fans and I were fairly skeptical. The cast list seemed like a complete joke with Chris Pratt and Seth Rogan’s castings coming as the biggest surprises, Illumination not being known for putting out quality movies, and a Mario movie already having been attempted all the way back in 1993 (and that movie was pretty horrible). When I went into the movie, I was shocked with all the praise it was getting. Critics seemed to hate it, but audiences were consistently praising it. It even achieved the record of being the largest animated global opening of all time, a record previously held by Frozen II. I showed up to the theater in my Yoshi onesie and I was completely prepared to walk out disappointed; boy, was I wrong about this movie. The movie absolutely exceeded my admittedly low expectations. The voice acting ranged from pretty good to perfect casting, the references made to the Mario series and other Nintendo games was awesome and while the story wasn’t very complex, it was perfectly adequate for a movie about an Italian plumber who jumps on turtles. 

One of the biggest problems that critics had with this movie was the absence of an interesting plot. Now I wasn’t expecting any sort of plot really since Illumination is horrible when it comes to plot, but what we got was pretty good. It isn’t some epic tale with complex twists and turns, but it does a good job at what it was meant to do: be entertaining to kids while also keeping what makes Mario Mario. Mario goes through the Mushroom Kingdom and beyond in order to rescue his brother and stop Bowser from taking over the world. It’s simple, but it works. The Mario series was never really known for its complex plot: Mario goes through some levels, kills Bowser and saves the Princess, so I didn’t go into this movie expecting some incredible thought-provoking plot. I just wanted a fun jump-man movie and that’s exactly what I got. 

I was very surprised when I originally saw the cast when the movie was announced on Nintendo Direct. My worries were reaffirmed when the first trailer was released. While Jack Black sounded like a pretty good Bowser, Pratt immediately worried me when he uttered the now famous line from the trailer, “What is this place?” a line where it seemed like he wasn’t even trying to put on even the slightest Italian accent. It wasn’t until I began seeing more trailers that I started getting more used to both his voice and the voices of his co-stars Keegan-Michael Key, Anya Taylor-Joy, Seth Rogan and Charlie Day. After watching the movie, I can now say that the voice acting was very well done, especially for actors that aren’t necessarily voice actors. Day and Black absolutely stood out as having the best voices for their characters, Luigi and Bowser. Black performed the incredible song “Peaches” as Bowser, a song that I had only heard about and was thrilled to actually hear in theaters. Day perfectly reflected the nervous energy that Luigi is known for. One of my few complaints with the movie is the fact that Day had so few lines in the movie. I really wish he had more because as it was I thought he was such a good character, and I wish I got to see more of him. Pratt did end up performing much better than expected with him doing a pretty good New York-Italian accent and doing a really good job whenever he had to say “It’s a-me” or “Wahoo!” I was one of the many people who laughed when he was announced as Mario, but I must say, he proved me wrong.

Now my favorite part of the movie was all the references made. Throughout the movie, famous tracks from the Mario games were turned into either epic orchestral pieces, like the world 1-1 theme and the superstar theme. Other songs like the underground theme were turned into more dramatic background music. Music is something that the Mario series has constantly been praised for; they are also some of the most recognizable themes ever. You can immediately tell when someone is humming or whistling a theme from Mario so the fact that they found a way of modernizing these pieces and turning them into a movie soundtrack is really admirable. 

References to other Nintendo games were also included, especially references to “Punch Out” in the form of a pizzeria in Brooklyn called Punch Out Pizzeria which has a wall covered with pictures of “Punch Out” characters like Little Mac and Glass Joe. Seeing references to other Nintendo games is such a cool detail and the joy that I felt when I saw those pictures is indescribable. My favorite reference, though, is something that some more casual fans may not have realized, the presence of the original Mario voice actor Charles Martinet. Martinet played a background character named Giuseppe and hearing his voice was awesome. Back when the castings were announced, it was revealed that Martinet would be playing a background character, and I’m really happy they stayed true to that. Ever since he first started voicing the character back in 1996 in “Super Mario 64,” he has been an integral part of the Mario franchise and including him was such a great choice.

Is the “Super Mario Bros. Movie” perfect? Of course not. While I did not expect a complex plot from the movie, it still would have been nice to get a different look into the Mario franchise. Kids movies don’t necessarily have to be simple, and it’s pretty clear that a decent chunk of the movie was dedicated to fan service. I personally don’t have a problem with the lack of complexity, but I have to acknowledge the fact that it is a drawback of the movie. Other than the plot, the movie is very well done especially for a movie made by a studio that has released movies like “Minions,” “Hop,” and a completely butchered version of “The Lorax.” The casting was surprisingly good, and all the references brought so much joy to my nerdy heart. This movie was absolutely worth the embarrassment that wearing a Yoshi onesie in public brought me. There will absolutely be a sequel to the movie, and I can’t wait to see where they go with this series.