Illumination’s ‘The Super Mario Bros. Movie’ Is a Brightly Animated Odyssey

“The Super Mario Bros. Movie” is a simple story with brilliant animation and a merry tone.

“The Super Mario Bros. Movie” karts to the lead by welcoming a madcap, mushroom-filled world.

Based on the video game series by Shigeru Miyamoto and Nintendo, “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” follows Brooklyn brothers Mario and Luigi as they plunge into a magical world of mushrooms, monkeys and tyrannical turtles.

After being sucked into a mysterious tunnel under New York City, the plumber-brothers find themselves separated across the Mushroom Kingdom. With Luigi being held hostage by the Koopa King Bowser, Mario works with the kingdom’s Princess Peach to unite a force to stop Bowser and his invading troops.

“The Super Mario Bros. Movie” features an all-star cast of eccentric characters and famed voices to match.

Chris Pratt as Mario gives a surprisingly endearing performance as the tenacious jumpman. Despite being criticized for his voice acting in the film’s promotions, the end-product shows Pratt (“Guardians of The Galaxy,” “The Lego Movie”) managing a portrayal that doesn’t distract or overtly stereotype.

Making up the second part of the Mario Bros. is Charlie Day as Luigi. Day (“It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia,” “Pacific Rim”) compliments Pratt’s sure-headedness as the supportive and thoughtful brother.

The interplay between the two lends to the film’s most heartfelt and earnest moments. Unfortunately, the sequences only appear at the start and end as the crux of the film revolves around the two being separated. 

The breakaway makes the movie more digestible for world-building but robs the film of the brothers’ dynamic. Consequently, Luigi falls by the wayside despite being the plural bro to Mario.

More than making up for Luigi’s absence, Anya Taylor-Joy as Princess Peach secures the role as a secondary protagonist in his stead. Taylor-Joy (“The Menu,” “The Queen’s Gambit”) embodies regality while retaining both the charisma and strength to lead her people.

Comedic additions like Toad (Keegan-Michael Key) and Donkey Kong (Seth Rogan) keep the pounding energy alive with off-the-cuff humor and witty banter. However, the true standout of the bunch is Jack Black as the delightfully villainous Bowser.

Black (“School of Rock,” “Kung Fu Panda”) pours his heart and soul into the role of a lovestruck, furred and fire-breathing tortoise. Seeking to win Peach’s favor by showing his feats of strength, Black plays Bowser like a pining bully embarrassed by his crush.

Black’s devotion to the role went as far as recording a piano serenade to Peach, simply titled “Peaches.” Not only is the song featured in the film and a post-credit scene, Black also committed to a separate music video directed by Cole Bennett of Lyrical Lemonade.

Performances aside, “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” wouldn’t be such a joyride without Illumination’s sensational animation. Known for producing simple-but-cute features like “Minions” and “Sing,” Illumination improved dramatically for “The Super Mario Bros. Movie.”

Directing duo Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic pair Illumination’s bright and bubbly presentation with thrilling re-enactments of gameplay and long takes of lively action. While overwhelming at times, the vibrantly colored scenes wholly captures Nintendo’s imaginative style and fun-focused aim. 

Horvath and Jelenic (“Teen Titans GO! To The Movies,” “Elf: Buddy’s Musical Christmas”) pay tribute to Miyamoto and Nintendo’s world lovingly. The film swells with joy every time Koji Kondo’s “Ground Theme” plays.

If there’s a fault to be had with “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” it’s that it’s too short. With such a vast and perplexing history, the film could’ve easily surpassed the hour-and-a-half runtime to give itself depth.

The film settles for a streamlined plot and skims over characters. While shallow, it’s still an enjoyable watch. “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” doesn’t need weighty storytelling to still have a fun time.

Overall, it’s yet another step forward for video game adaptations. “The Last of Us” loyally brought to life its dramatic wasteland and “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” likewise adapts its light-hearted world with passion. 

Both are testaments to video games’ gained respect as creatives produce love-letters to their playable-inspirations. These inhabitable characters, settings and worlds are all gradually growing into on-screen galaxies — of super proportions.

“The Super Mario Bros. Movie” is in theaters now.

Featured image courtesy of Universal Pictures

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