Nostalgia might be one of our greatest enemies. The lie that if we connect to those long lasting memories we can create greater art for the future. It’s actually just straight bullshit that so many have been able to harness. The latest destruction in its path is connecting us back to those memories of playing one of Nintendo’s greatest games. In fact it might be the greatest game of all. Super Mario Bros is a revolution. Released in 1985 the game and its characters stemmed from two Italian. New York plumbers spawned a revolution. The lets-a-go attitude, the iconic soundtrack and countless games and motley crew of characters gave kids endless hours of playtime and further imagination. It’s actually quite surprising we haven’t had a full length animated movie yet. Yes there was the 1993 live action cult classic both hated and revered but it’s still surprising that no studio just said fuck it out the cut videos together and make a movie out of it. Thankfully that never happened but nearly 40 years later you’d assume their first full length version to dive into the stratosphere would be worth the kart ride. Instead THE SUPER MARIO BROS. MOVIE is a continuous proof of everything going wrong with animation. It’s a a belittling reminder that so many still refuse to see this medium for all it’s worth. In fact that could be the driving force behind almost all of Illumination Studios’ films. To be at the bare minimum but hey cash those millions in so maybe nobody will notice. Unfortunately even a skilled plumber can’t fix all these leaks.

It’s never great when your film starts with a disagreement long before anyone even sees a single moment of the film but that is the world of social media, film twitter and total chaos we live in. When megastar Chris Pratt was announced as the voice of broken English Mario there was definitely a feel of just using a big name. And while that animosity has carried over for almost a year it would be the film’s smallest worry. THE SUPER MARIO BROS begins letting us know there’s a great danger and that nobody can stop the evil forces amongst us. That is until we cut to our titular characters, Mario (Pratt) an expert plumber and his equal partner/brother Luigi (Charlie Day). Two New York plumbers who are the brink of major success but might not be enough to win over their families respect. They’ll never save Brooklyn or amount to anything special. The film builds on a foundation of two underdog brothers but Pratt and Day’s voice work feel so recorded in separate rooms that you never get that bond that makes these two so codependent. Mario quickly (the whole film rushes through everything) stumbles upon magical sewer pipes that lead him to the land of the Mushroom Kingdom and his brother off to a more dangerous territory. The film may be geared towards kids of all ages but this film is clearly for the binge/TikTok generation who can’t wait a moment without being spoon fed all information. Mario and Luigi separately learn of the evil force that is Bowser (Jack Black) who wants the Super Star to win over Princes Peach (Anya Taylor Joy) and marry her. Joy as Peach delivers a dull raspy performance that reeks less feminist and more stand in. Any romance between Mario and Peach is dead on arrival and Peaches’ mysterious past is referred to but never delved in. No matter what Peach comes off as a mere attempt to reinvent the character but instead reduces her to a mere catalyst.

For those expecting a worldwide adventure involving the many universes of the Nintendo/Mario world might need to wait for the inevitable sequel. During their very quick journey to the Kong Kingdom we get mere glimpses of other world that once again are merely placed for the audiences to get excited to see things they loved as a kid. Even when things slow down and Peach and Mario get some quiet before the storm there is very little to give either of these any emotional weight. We learn that Peach doesn’t know where she comes from, but its left there. Save it for the sequel. The film for its big title also never really builds on the idea of Mario and Luigi being separated and what that means for them. There doesn’t need to be some Greek tragedy built on these two, but the writers never even attempt to tackle a possibly amusing story on codependency or even just brotherly love. Luigi, a fan favorite, is wonderfully voice acted by Charlie Day best known for his erratic work on “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and while Luigi keeps reminding us of the heart of the film he also still feels shortchanged as a character. Its pretty impressive for a film that barely introduces that many characters it still manages to sideline the ones given.

THE SUPER MARIO BROS. had an easy ticket. Illumination had most of their work done for them. World building, characters, even the score was all finished for them. All they truly had to do was build a compelling story around these characters to prove to us they deserve the big screen adaptation. Instead they continue to go the safe and all too easy route and just throw in flashy images, stale and outdated jokes and just wind up belittling their audience’s intelligence. Once the all too rushed finale comes followed by the eye roll credit teasers you find yourself realizing that not only did nostalgia win, but maybe everything was a lot better dusting out those Nintendo 64 cartridges. Rainbow road may look prettier on the big screen but much like your poorly chosen Toad cart, it falls off immediately and you’re left in frustration.




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