In 1993 Nintendo pulled the plug on all adaptations after the failed Super Mario Bros movie. Thirty years later, they should have stuck to their word.
Illumination Entertainment, the studio behind Minions, had already become the victim of Internet mockery from the initial trailer of Chris Pratt’s voicing alternative to Charles Martinet.
Little had been provided in the delivery to dissuade naysayers, with its tonal confusion and dreadful voice acting perpetuating all the issues noticeable from its first teaser. To reinforce the point, Pratt, as directed by Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic, is nails-on-a-chalkboard unbearable.
Instead, this iconographic dungaree-wearing Italian suffers from a Napoleon complex disliking mushrooms before becoming placed within an entire kingdom of sentient and decorative fungi to defeat Jack Black’s marriage-infatuated piano-playing Bowser, who seeks the hand of Princess Peach (Anya Taylor-Joy).
What should be a fairly-standard cash grab for Illumination and Nintendo convolutes itself by absurdly taking the Mario-verse in its final act and placing it within Brooklyn, as taking a game outside of its pixelated realm has famously worked well, as Spy Kids 3D: Game Over and Pixels can attest.
Oddly, The Super Mario Bros. Movie relies frequently on 3D assets popping out of the frame, attempting to distract the infantile audience with illusionary gimmicks. A modern Pepper’s ghost to mystify the admission fare and the price tag of the Mario games, masochistically reinforced with the line delivery, ‘This isn’t an advert, this is cinema.’
The emperor is knowingly bare, arms akimbo, windmilling proudly as if the self-aware degradation will allow us to ignore the derogatory ridicule.
To give the film a margin of credit, it is evident how Nintendo was keen on retaining the elements of the plumber’s gaming background. There will soon be a smattering of articles pointing out every minutia, of which this will not join the likes. Though one sequence of 2D side-scrolling is a personal highlight, a five-second delight, lost amongst two hours of hyper-vibrant tripe is arduous at best, with perpetual non-diegetic music from Beastie Boys, AC/DC, a-ha, and the Electric Light Orchestra failing to calm my bubbling frustrations.
‘Pain is the best teacher,’ claims Pratt’s Mario. If that were the case, the film wouldn’t have left the pitching room, let alone have the gall to reference the Sonic the Hedgehog movie’s animation troubles with Mario delivering a similar quivering ‘meow’ when fighting Donkey Kong (Seth Rogen).
Most insultingly of all, Charles Martinet, voice actor to both Mario and Luigi in the video games also stars in this atrocious homage to a film reliant on the success of his voice. His role reduced to a caricature of his entire career starring only for mere minutes. How this was allowed whilst Fred Armisen shouts every line as Cranky Kong is an audacity hard to forgive.
The Super Mario Bros. Movie is in cinemas from 5 April.
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