The Super Mario Bros. Movie review: A superstar saga

Mario's return to the big screen is a beautiful celebration of the iconic franchise.

Universal Pictures

It’s been nearly 30 years since Mario and Luigi hit the silver screen, and their long-awaited return has finally arrived. The Super Mario Bros. Movie is a collaboration between Minions creator Illumination and Nintendo. With The Big N’s involvement, there were high expectations for this adaptation of the iconic plumber to be faithful to what fans love about the character, and The Super Mario Bros. Movie delivers on just that.

World 1-1

Mario and Luigi posing on the street in front of their company van.

Source: Universal Pictures

The Super Mario Bros. Movie finds the titular siblings as aspiring plumbers, hoping to get a new business off the ground. However, it’s not long before Mario and Luigi are sucked into a new universe and thrust into a mission to help protect Mushroom Kingdom. Right off the bat, The Super Mario Bros. Movie is jam-packed with easter eggs both large and small. Not just nods to Mario’s deep library of games, but the entire Nintendo family. It’s a movie that Nintendo fans will enjoy combing through to pick out every fine detail.

I was impressed by how quickly I bought into the relationship between Mario and Luigi here, too. Sure, I’ve been watching the brothers go on adventures together for my entire life, but having that relationship translate to the big screen isn’t necessarily easy. Without too much flashing back, we get a strong sense of how Mario and Luigi have looked out for and protected each other over the years.

While I (like everyone else) had legitimate concerns about Chris Pratt as Mario coming in, I found his performance to be perfectly fine. It didn’t take me out of the movie as I feared it might, and I had forgotten he was the man behind the voice by the end. That said, Charlie Day’s Luigi and Jack Black’s Bowser really stood out to me. Jack Black in particular has a few moments that are some of the best in the movie.

Follow the rainbow road

Mario, Peach, Toad, and Cranky Kong driving karts on Rainbow Road.

Source: Universal Pictures

The Super Mario Bros. Movie does an excellent job at taking elements from the games and making them work in a new medium. The nods to Mario’s platforming roots, and the use of the various creatures that have popped up through the franchise were exceptionally clever.

Arguably some of the best adaptations done in the entire movie is the way so many iconic Mario songs and sounds are brought to life in fun new ways. There were so many minor sound effects, like a block breaking or a 1-Up Mushroom being consumed, that put a smile on my face every time. The soundtrack felt like Nintendo was flexing its deep discography of instantly recognizable Mario tunes, with some great reimaginings from composer Brian Tyler.

While the story doesn’t take many big swings, it’s able to ride on the backs of solid world-building and emotional character moments that I didn’t see coming. The film would have benefitted from a few more of these moments.

A close-up shot of Bowser's face.

Source: Universal Pictures

Although I didn’t mind the story in a Mario film being pretty paint-by-numbers, it felt like we zipped through everything really quickly, speedrunning exposition and dashing from plot point to plot point. The way the movie fleshes out The Mushroom Kingdom and other locations within the Mario universe are some of the most fascinating parts of the movie, and I wish we got to spend more time doing that.

I have to give The Super Mario Bros. Movie props for featuring some genuinely funny moments with clever gags and callbacks that had me chuckling in the theater. With Illumination at the helm, I was worried that it would lean on lowbrow Minions humor, but this is probably one of the funniest movies I’ve seen from the studio. Illumination’s expertise in animation is also on full display here, as the color and detail are truly something to marvel at.

Jump up, superstar!

Mario looking ahead at the streets of Mushroom Kingdom.

Source: Universal Pictures

I walked out of The Super Mario Bros. Movie pleasantly surprised by how well this world and its characters translated to the big screen. Bringing all these characters to life in a way that feels authentic and doesn’t alienate fans is no small feat, and you can feel the passion and love that went into making that happen. More than anything, I’m optimistic about the future of Mario universe films and hope this isn’t the last partnership between Illumination and Nintendo.

The Super Mario Bros. Movie was directed by Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic. The movie is available exclusively in theaters.

News Editor

Donovan is a young journalist from Maryland, who likes to game. His oldest gaming memory is playing Pajama Sam on his mom's desktop during weekends. Pokémon Emerald, Halo 2, and the original Star Wars Battlefront 2 were some of the most influential titles in awakening his love for video games. After interning for Shacknews throughout college, Donovan graduated from Bowie State University in 2020 with a major in broadcast journalism and joined the team full-time. He is a huge Scream nerd and film fanatic that will talk with you about movies and games all day. You can follow him on twitter @Donimals_

  • Solid world-building
  • Most of the humor works
  • Stellar soundtrack
  • Jack Black and Charlie Day are standouts
  • Heartfelt character moments
  • Packed with fun references and easter eggs
  • Story is rushed through
From The Chatty
  • reply
    April 6, 2023 10:00 AM

    Donovan Erskine posted a new article, The Super Mario Bros. Movie review: A superstar saga

    • reply
      April 6, 2023 10:39 AM

      Great review! Can’t wait to see the movie.

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      April 6, 2023 11:35 AM

      Taking my kids this weekend!

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      April 6, 2023 1:52 PM

      I thought Anya Taylor-Joy was fantastic as Peach and she was great to listen to explain things to Mario.

    • reply
      April 6, 2023 2:24 PM

      Boston Globe says "This isn’t a movie; it’s a checklist of fan expectations."

      which is exactly the vibe I was getting from the trailer. Curious to see more shacker impressions though

      • reply
        April 6, 2023 2:29 PM

        Daily Telegraph lol

        Despite some serious competition in recent years, no film has ever made me feel more like I was being frogmarched round a branch of Toys R Us.

    • reply
      April 6, 2023 5:46 PM

      It was awesome. I think a lot of film critics just don’t like gaming (and a significant chunk feel threatened by it.)

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        April 7, 2023 1:11 AM

        If you get none of the references or nostalgia feel, it probably is a pretty sucky movie.

        But for me, an 80's kid and gamer, the music was 11/10.

    • reply
      April 6, 2023 5:47 PM

      This review going on

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