THE SUPER MARIO BROS. MOVIE Review: What's a Matter You?

Chris Pratt, Anya Taylor-Joy and Charlie Day lead the voice cast for an animated adventure.

Managing Editor; Dallas, Texas, US (@peteramartin)
THE SUPER MARIO BROS. MOVIE Review: What's a Matter You?

Designed for all four quadrants, yet appealing to none.

The Super Mario Bros. Movie
The film opens Wednesday, April 5, only in movie theaters, via Universal Pictures. Visit the official site for locations and tickets.

Ill-conceived and poorly executed, the animated movie mashes together adaptations of several video game ideas to make a hash of them all.

The opening act appears designed to appeal to children, with its broad characterization of a modern Italian-American family living in Brooklyn. Mario (Chris Pratt) and Luigi (Charlie Day), brothers who still live at home with their large family, speak with exaggerated "eye-ta-lian" accents for a television commercial promoting their new plumbing business. They briefly question their own judgment about doing so, but the family loves the commercial -- except for the father, who is dismissive about their efforts and questions why they quit their old jobs.

The ad quickly results in their first customer, a Black couple with an angry dog of no particular racial background who manages to destroy the couple's bathroom after Mario and Luigi have quickly fixed the plumbing problem. From there it's a short leap (?!) into the Mushroom Kingdom and their ongoing efforts to resist Bowser (Jack Black), the monstrous king of the Koopas, and yes, it gets sillier from there.

Mario is welcomed into the Mushroom Kingdom by the friendly Toad (Keegan-Michael Key), who leads him to Princess Peach (Anya Taylor-Joy) so she can help Mario to find Luigi. Somehow, when the brothers entered this hidden world, Luigi was spewed out to the Dark Lands, where he is imprisoned by the Koopas, and he badly needs to be rescued.

Directed by Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic, who together developed the animated series Teen Titans Go!, the film's writer is Michael Fogel, who also wrote Minions: The Rise of Gru, a vastly more amusing movie that depended principally upon the antics of cute creatures speaking a nonsensical language.

Both the Mushroom Kingdom and the Dark are inhabited principally by tiny creatures, and Mario and Luigi are repeatedly noted for the small stature, compared to Princess Peach and the giant Bowser, yet the script confuses insult humor with genuine wit, resulting in long passages that are almost entirely mirthless.

Instead, the film consists of various video-game inspired action sequences, whose initial cleverness -- oh, isn't that cute? -- soon becomes wearisome with repetition -- oh, are that doing that again? -- occasionally tied together with overly-familiar pop songs that are inserted for little apparent reason other than the need for a montage to be accompanied by music to give it a little extra oomph.

Gradually, the very young-skewing aesthetic, which might have been perfectly fine and acceptably silly for its intended audience, gives way to a mess of a movie that becomes increasingly dark and destructive, wavering in tone as it seeks to make place for various messages that are contradictory in nature. It's not unusual for a family-friendly movie to be awash in earnest messaging nowadays, but I'm not sure, exactly, what messages The Super Mario Bros. Movie is endeavoring to deliver.

Because you can never have too many familiar characters in an IP-dependent movie, Donkey Kong (Seth Rogen) is drafted into the game to boost the fortunes of the Mushroom Kingdom against the evil Bowser, but first Donkey Kong must battle Mario, and why am I relating more of the plot? Because that's what the movie is mostly about: introducing characters for more movies and/or episodic shows, and to fit in more celebrity voice actors.


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Anya Taylor-JoyCharlie DayChris PrattIllumination EntertainmentJack BlackUniversal PicturesUS

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