Mario (voiced by Chris Pratt) and Luigi (voiced by Charlie Day) are plumbers who have recently gone into business for themselves. They’ve spent their life savings on a commercial promoting themselves and seem like the laughing stock of Brooklyn as far as their friends and family are concerned. When the city begins to flood, the Mario brothers jump into action but are sucked into a warp pipe to another world and become separated.

(from left) Mario (Chris Pratt) and Luigi (Charlie Day) in Nintendo and Illumination’s The Super Mario Bros. Movie, directed by Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic.

Mario plunges into Mushroom Kingdom where he meets Princess Peach (voiced by Anya Taylor-Joy) and Toad (voiced by Keegan-Michael Key). And Luigi descends into the Darklands where he eventually crosses paths with King Koopa himself, Bowser (voiced by Jack Black).

Mario and Luigi must figure out a way to reunite and return home all while trying to survive a brand new and dangerous world.

As a CGI-animated film, The Super Mario Bros. Movie is gorgeous. Like with most Illumination films (the Despicable Me films, Minions, The Grinch), even if you aren’t a fan of the character designs the rich textures and awesomely bright colors usually lure you in.

It’ll never not be impressive just how well hair is rendered in computer animated media in the modern day. You find yourself mesmerized by the hairs in Mario’s mustache and Peach’s golden flowing hair.

Mario (Chris Pratt) in Nintendo and Illumination’s The Super Mario Bros. Movie, directed by Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic.

Seeing the cloth fibers on Mario’s clothes and overalls is also an insane concept to grasp if you played the original 8-bit Super Mario Bros. video game on NES in its prime. Bowser also has scales and intricate grooves in his shell that immediately pop on the big screen.

The iridescent warp pipe sequence at the beginning of the film as well as the entirety of the thrilling Rainbow Road chase are also instances when the animation is at its best.

Bowser (Jack Black) toys with Luigi (Charlie Day) in Universal Pictures’ The Super Mario Bros. Movie.

The highlight of the film is all of the Easter eggs and homage to the Mario video game franchise. The music of the film is an original score by Brian Tyler intertwined with the original Nintendo themes from Koji Kondo. When Mario and Luigi rush off to their first plumbing job, their jog down the street as they dodge the dangers of an everyday street in Brooklyn is a clear throwback to the sidescrolling roots the Super Mario Bros. video game from 1985.  

Directed by Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic (Teen Titans GO! to the Movies) with a screenplay by Matthew Fogel (co-writer of The Lego Movie: The Second Part and Minions: The Rise of Gru), The Super Mario Bros. Movie is surprisingly dull when it isn’t slapping you in the face with rainbow colored nostalgia.

The film struggles to be entertaining even with its brisk 90-minute duration. Aside from the video game references, the most entertaining parts of the film are when the on-screen characters aren’t talking.

Kamek (Kevin Michael Richardson) in Nintendo and Illumination’s The Super Mario Bros. Movie, directed by Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic.

The voice cast isn’t quite as jarring as the trailers make it out to be. Jack Black is having the time of his life as Bowser. His performance is what makes the film as worthwhile as it is. He has two songs in the film that are silly and fun and his obsession with marrying Peach is the only laugh out loud gag in the entire film.

Toad thankfully isn’t as annoying in the film as he is in the games. Michael-Keegan Key breathes new life into the character as he’s now adventurous, useful, and incredibly loyal. Kevin Michael Richardson is doing a spot-on Peter Lorre impression as the koopa sorcerer Kamek and it’s fantastic.

But Chris Pratt’s Mario voice gradually evolves into something tolerable and Charlie Day has always been a solid choice to voice Luigi. The one voice that is hard to get used to is Seth Rogen as Donkey Kong. Donkey Kong pretty much just made monkey noises in the games, so hearing him talk in full sentences as a famously successful pothead is bizarre.

Donkey Kong (Seth Rogen) in Nintendo and Illumination’s The Super Mario Bros. Movie, directed by Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic.

The Verdict

The Super Mario Bros. Movie is like Fruit Stripe Gum. It’s super colorful and eyecatching, but it seems to instantly lose its flavor and charm. The film is visually stunning and Jack Black is outstanding as Bowser. The big action sequences are like big budget versions of the Mario video games playthroughs with little welcome surprises thrown in.

But the film is massively unfunny, the characters are extremely flat, and the flimsy writing is about as complex as an unkempt mustache.

'The Super Mario Bros. Movie' Review - Plunging Rainbow Colored Nostalgia to Death
  • Colorfully intricate animation.
  • Jack Black going all in as Bowser.
  • Constant Mario and Nintendo references.
  • Not funny.
  • Poor writing and weak dialogue.
  • Seth Rogen as Donkey Kong is awkward.
5Overall Score
Reader Rating: (28 Votes)