Movie Review: The Super Mario Bros. Movie (2023)
Synopsis: Two brothers, Mario and Luigi, are trying to start their own plumbing business despite everyone, including their father, telling them it is a mistake. While attempting to prove themselves by fixing a Brooklyn plumbing disaster, they are pulled into a mysterious pipe and are separated. Mario lands in the Mushroom Kingdom, ruled by Princess Peach and in danger of being conquered by the evil Bowser, who also has Luigi as a prisoner. Mario wants to help the princess stop Bowser so he can be reunited with his brother but finds his small size and lack of fighting skills are an obstacle.
Review: My wife and I thought about taking our kids to see this film when it was at the theaters but wound up doing something else instead. We finally had an opportunity to watch it as a family last night and, after seeing it, I'm kind of glad we didn't spend money on movie tickets.
To clarify, I didn't hate this film. As a family movie, it was slightly better than OK. However, it also wasn't as good as I think it could have been.
I think my biggest problem with this movie is it felt a little too much like an advertisement for the Mario-related video games. It was as though the writers thought "let's have a very basic plot and just throw in references to the games everyone knows and loves." The end result was what I felt was a lot of filler, whether it was Mario trying to complete an obstacle course or the group driving on Rainbow Road from Mario Kart, and not much effort to really add any sort of depth to any of the characters, other than Mario (Pratt) and Donkey Kong (Rogan) having daddy issues.
The one highlight in this movie, in all honesty, was Peach (Joy). I loved her character. That said, the movie seemed to be centered more around her at times than the main characters. Mario, in all honesty, didn't do a whole heck of a lot until the very end and Luigi (Charlie Day) did even less. In fact, it felt like Luigi was just there for the sake of appearances.
I also hated the way the movie gave Peach a half-assed backstory. I've always wondered why the ruler of a mushroom kingdom is a human but, other than say she didn't know where she came from and just arrived, the film made no effort to explain that. I'm wondering if maybe the filmmakers were counting on a Peach-related sequel or something.
I'm undecided about Bowser (Black). I thought Jack Black did an awesome job with the character but also felt, much like Mario, he didn't really do a whole lot to establish himself as a villain until toward the end. The whole "Bowser is in love with Peach" thing also seemed awkward. Maybe it would have made more sense had there been more of a backstory to explain it but, in its present form, it just seemed to have more of an "ick" factor than anything else.
Final Opinion: The 1993 live action Super Mario Bros. gets a lot of criticism but at least that movie attempted to have a somewhat original plot and didn't rely on Mario-game nostalgia to fill a somewhat short runtime. I didn't hate this version, but I think I might have enjoyed the 1993 version more as a result.
My Grade: C