The Super Mario Bros. Movie Review: Great Graphics Hide Uninspired Gameplay (2023)


The Super Mario Bros. Movie fixes Hollywood's original sin in the eyes of Nintendo and will be adored by children. But for such a beautifully made product, it's strangely hollow on the inside.

The shadow of the original Super Mario Bros. movie circa 1993 is strong. As one of the first video game movies, the picture had for a brief time the likes of Dustin Hoffman, Tom Hanks, and Arnold Schwarzenegger circling key roles. The stink we now usually associate with “video game movies” was not yet a thing. Of course that stench really began because of Super Mario Bros. and its status as a legendary Hollywood disaster. The scent became so overwhelming, in fact, not to mention humiliating, that Nintendo lowered the gates to their kingdom, refusing to let Hollywood enter again for a full 30 years.

Three decades later though, the gates are up, the drawbridge is down, and Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment have convinced Nintendo to hand them the keys. Which makes it striking that in many ways, The Super Mario Bros. Movie (2023) appears to be a course correction; a redo; a veritable Sliding Doors scenario where the setup is pretty much the same thing: Two Brooklyn-born brothers of unconvincing Italian-American heritage are down on their luck as plumbers until they stumble onto a portal to another dimension hidden beneath the sewers of NYC. Only now that portal is the more familiar green pipe from the games instead of bizarre (but also game-based) inter-dimensional quicksand. More importantly, however, once the Brothers Mario pass through that gateway, they avoid winding up in a garish, allegedly kid-friendly version of Blade Runner. Instead they’re at last in the giddy beauty and vast wonderment of the Mario games. For audiences nine to (probably) 49, it should be overwhelming.

If the notoriously cinema-shy Nintendo was hesitant to ever do this dance again for fear of seeing their prized intellectual property not faithfully adapted, they and millions of fans (particularly children), can rest easy. Super Mario Bros. The Movie is an exhaustingly slavish recreation of elements from the games. Few will likely even notice, either, that it’s by way of a pretty generic and fairly hollow Illumination flick.

To be sure, the thing certainly looks grand after Mario (Chris Pratt) follows Luigi (Charlie Day) down the pipe-shaped rabbit hole. Before that moment, there is some basic backstory revealing the pair are viewed as a couple of mustachioed losers by their family and the neighborhood, and Mario just wants to do something important (meanwhile Luigi just wants to do whatever Mario wants). But once they leave their slice of Kansas behind, Luigi is pretty much sidelined for the whole movie because he lands in the Dark Lands, where he is captured by the Koopa armies of Bower (Jack Black), a tyrannical dragon with an underrated singing voice.


(Video) The Super Mario Bros. Movie Review

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Conversely, Mario lands in the Mushroom Kingdom, which is populated by an endless sea of androgynous children, each named Toad (Keegan-Michael Key voices the most important one), and the humanoid Princess Peach (Anya Taylor-Joy). But make no mistake, this Peach is nobody’s damsel. Before Mario tastes even his first mushroom, the Princess is already a badass jumper, fireball-wielder, and Rainbow Road driver. It’s honestly a bit of a mystery why the princess has need of plumbers at all, especially one as schlubby as Pratt’s Mario. The movie doesn’t seem to really consider that question either. They meet and she agrees immediately to take him with her to the Jungle Kingdom where she will entreat with the father of Donkey Kong (Seth Rogen) to join her forces in a fight against Bowser before the Koopa King invades both of their lands.

This movie is, again, a visually sumptuous transfer of Nintendo iconography to a 70-foot (or so) screen. And it’s all here: mushrooms that turn Mario into a giant? Check. Leaves that inexplicably make him a raccoon with the gift of flight? Double check. That white top hat Bowser wore during select cutscenes of Super Mario Odyssey? Look, the easiest way to sum up an easter egg guide for this sucker is to say that if you can think of it, it’s probably in the movie and it’ll put a smile on your face when it appears (including via two post-credits scenes).

Yet it isn’t just the simple name or visual recognition that works in the film’s favor. For the first time in what seems like nearly a decade, Illumination is really stretching its animation prowess to its fullest. Historically, Illumination films after the early surprise success of Despicable Me have excessively relied on celebrity stunt voice casting and tedious pop culture jokes and songs “for the adults,” which are intended to paper over thin narratives.

One must really give credit where it’s due to The Super Mario Bros. Movie then; the attention to detail (and likely pressure to please the rightsholders of what has grown into a billion-dollar IP) is immense. As a result, parents and children alike will overdose on the sugar rush blast of candy-colored nostalgia on constant display. Peach’s Castle at the top of the Mushroom Kingdom, Bowser’s Flying Fortress, Rainbow Road, even the spooky trees from Luigi’s Mansion are all gorgeously recreated, and each further enhanced by Brian Tyler score, which sprinkles in countless nods to Nintendo games of yore and their beloved themes written by Koji Kondo.

Yet the limit to that AAA effort is it’s still in service to a movie that is shackled by the far more limited imagination of Illumination formula. As far as Twitter gossip is concerned that begins and ends with the stunt casting of Pratt as Mario. And truthfully it is unnecessary, especially when Charles Martinet, who has voiced Mario and Luigi in the games since 1996, makes a vocal cameo that is instantly beguiling. However, Pratt is more than fine as the Italian plumber in a red cap. It’s not a remarkable performance per se, but it fulfills the limited demands set by Illumination’s film.

And what those demands consist of is another American animated film that coasts off audience recognition of IP and fourth-wall breaking gags. It’s been 20 years, nearly to the day, since Quentin Tarantino made HOTEI’s “Battle Without Honor or Humanity” the audible sound of cool in Kill Bill: Vol. 1, and when it appears inside of the first 90 seconds of The Super Mario Bros. Movie, parents will instantly know it’s lost all cultural cachet and relevance. Of course kids, who will be this movie’s best served audience, won’t care, nor should they. Nevertheless, I wonder if ripping off the nearly as old Shrek 2 by sliding in Bonnie Tyler’s “I Need a Hero” for a montage will go as unnoticed by even the youngest viewers.


(Video) I read way too much into The Super Mario Bros. Movie...

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And that’s really the thing about this movie. As a carefully calibrated stewardship of a game franchise that multiple generations love, the handling is nothing short of a door-to-door white glove service—and a far cry from that American insult in ‘93. As an actual animated movie that needs to stand on its own, however, it’s derivative and barebones. The quiet scenes between Mario and Peach feel particularly strung together with seeming character beats and lines of dialogue that were probably storyboarded missing after the story was condensed during the animation process.

There are exceptions of course, most of them regarding Black inside Bowser’s Castle. In the one instance where the celebrity casting actually adds to the quality of the film, Black’s King Koopa is reimagined as a lovelorn and sensitive soul, prone to tearful power ballads on the piano. One can’t help but wonder how much of that is improvised by Black—just as one might wonder what a Mario Bros. movie might’ve been like if it was made by Pixar or even the newly revitalized DreamWorks Animation that just put out Puss in Boots: The Last Wish.

As it stands, this is a cute family film that children will adore, and many nostalgic adults will drift away on like a magic carpet above a 64-bit flying pirate ship. It’s an adequate product with exquisite craftsmanship. When you open it up though, it’s empty on the inside.

The Super Mario Bros. Movie opens Wednesday, April 5.


(Video) The Super Mario Bros. Movie | Official Trailer


3 out of 5

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(Video) The Mario Movie Removed Something!

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Tags: Anya Taylor-JoyChris PrattJack BlackMarioNintendo

The Super Mario Bros. Movie Review: Great Graphics Hide Uninspired Gameplay (1)

Written by

David Crow|@DCrowsNest

David Crow is the movies editor at Den of Geek. He has long been proud of his geek credentials. Raised on cinema classics that ranged from…

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(Video) 15 HIDDEN DETAILS in SUPER MARIO BROS MOVIE 🍄 SECOND Trailer (Analysis) [2023]


Is Yoshi in the Mario movie 2023? ›

Though we don't get a green Yoshi in a major role in the film, we do get a quick glimpse of some other-colored Yoshis in the flick — and one dinosaur-sized hint of what's to come during a post-credits scene.

How can I watch Super Mario Bros 2023? ›

You can use a streaming service such as Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime Video. You can also rent or buy the movie on iTunes or Google Play. You can also watch it on-demand or on a streaming app available on your TV or streaming device if you have cable.

Is Super Mario Bros movie on Netflix? ›

No, The Super Mario Bros. Movie will not be on Netflix — at least not anytime soon, since it will go to Peacock after its theatrical run.

What went wrong with Super Mario Bros movie? ›

The production of 1993's “Super Mario Bros.” was marred by drunken actors (Leguizamo later claimed he drank whiskey with Hoskins during shooting), last-minute rewrites and explosive fights between the producers and the directors.

Can Luigi ride Yoshi? ›

First Appearance

Luigi is a major character in the Yoshi series, ally and lifelong friend to Yoshi and younger twin brother of Mario. Yoshi likes it when Luigi rides on him.

What animal is Yoshi? ›

Yoshi is a fictional dinosaur who appears in video games published by Nintendo.

Will the Mario movie have Luigi? ›

The film features an origin story for the brothers Mario and Luigi, Italian-American plumbers who are transported to an alternate world and become entangled in a battle between the Mushroom Kingdom, led by Princess Peach, and the Koopas, led by Bowser.

How old is Mario right now? ›

Is Daisy in the new Mario movie? ›

Daisy has always brought significantly more personality to proceedings, and that she seems to have been shut out of The Super Mario Bros. Movie entirely is disappointing when we have celebrity casting for Toad and the presence of lesser characters like Kamek.

How can I watch Mario cartoon? ›

The Super Mario Bros. Super Show!, a children series starring "Captain" Lou Albano, Danny Wells, and Harvey Atkin is available to stream now. Watch it on Tubi - Free Movies & TV, The Roku Channel, FilmRise, Freevee, FilmRise Kids, FilmRise Family or Vudu on your Roku device.

What is Mario and Luigi show on Netflix? ›

Based on the video game, this comedy follows Brooklyn plumbers Mario and Luigi as they battle a shady company and end up in bizarre parallel world. Watch all you want. Bob Hoskins, John Leguizamo, Dennis Hopper and Samantha Mathis star in this adaptation of the classic video game.

Has Mario ever had a movie? ›

In 1993, Hollywood Pictures released Super Mario Bros., a live-action adaptation that tanked at the box office and was badly reviewed. Now, millions are flocking to theaters to see the latest adaptation.

Why was Super Mario 128 cancelled? ›

This rumored expansion and sequel to Super Mario 64 was said to be developed for the 64DD, but was canceled due to the 64DD's commercial failure.

Has there ever been a bad Mario game? ›

Mario Party Advance also makes a strange attempt to feel a bit like an RPG with its quest system, but it mostly falls flat. At least according to Metacritic, it currently stands as the worst Mario game.

What was Mario supposed to be? ›

He is an Italian plumber residing in the fictional Mushroom Kingdom, whose adventures generally center on rescuing Princess Peach from the villain Bowser. Mario has access to a variety of power-ups that give him different abilities. Mario's brother is Luigi.

Who is Luigi's crush? ›

Waluigi and Luigi both have a crush on Daisy, according to the Mario Party 4 guide.

What is Yoshis gender? ›

Despite his egg-laying abilities, Yoshi is considered male in most regions. However, Shigeru Miyamoto has gone on record and stated he is not sure if Yoshi is male or female. It could be that Yoshi has no official gender assigned to it, as the original Japanese does not use gender pronouns.

Can you ride baby Yoshi? ›

Other players can grab on to the player with the Baby Yoshi in the same way players can lift one another and can also be carried into the air.

Is Purple Yoshi a girl? ›

Purple Yoshi is the one of the only female yoshis in VAF.

Does Yoshi have a pet? ›

Poochy is a dog that has appeared throughout the Yoshi franchise. In most games, he can be found in certain levels and serves as a safe platform. Poochy can walk over dangerous terrain, such as spikes and lava, allowing Yoshi to cross them safely.

Does Yoshi lay eggs? ›

In Yoshi Touch & Go, Yoshi lays eggs when he collects fruit. Yoshi's Eggs can be used to collect items and defeat enemies.

What gender is Luigi? ›

FamilyMario (twin brother)
OriginMushroom Kingdom
9 more rows

Does Mario 64 have Luigi? ›

Luigi is a playable character exclusive to Super Mario 64 DS.

Why was Luigi removed Mario 64? ›

While Luigi was originally intended to be in Super Mario 64 alongside its multiplayer mode, he was removed when the mode proved too troublesome for the developers. Despite this, Luigi's influence has seeped into some personalized copies of Super Mario 64.

Is Mario 45 years old? ›

So when I watched Illumination's new film, The Super Mario Bros. Movie, I was shook. There's evidence here that Mario is not actually a middle-aged man. Beyond that, Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto once just came out and said it: Mario is roughly 24 to 25 years old in his original '80s game appearances.

What is Mario's last name? ›

30th Anniversary festival in 2015. During this event, he stated that Mario and Luigi both have the last name "Mario". Miyamoto later continued the gag in a Game Informer interview, stating that Link, main protagonist and playable character in the series The Legend of Zelda, has the last name "Link".

Who is Baby Daisy's dad? ›

Relatives: Baby Luigi (Brother) Luigi (Father)

Who is the most loved Mario character? ›

Or you, Luigi. Over 87,000 people recently voted in a survey by gaming website Cribbage Online, with the results showing that the most-beloved “Super Mario Bros.” character is none other than the egg-laying, stretchy tongued dinosaur Yoshi.

Is Luigi dating Daisy canon? ›

Trivia. In the live-action film adaption, Daisy is Luigi's girlfriend, thus making the ship canon in the film's universe. However, it does not make the pairing's relationship official, because the film takes place in an alternate universe.

Will Yoshi appear in the Mario movie? ›

The character is so famous that he has his own spinoff video games, which sort of raises the question of why he didn't make an appearance in the movie — there's a quick shot of Yoshis but not Yoshi himself.

Is there a Yoshi in the Mario movie? ›

A number of key Mario characters tied to the Mushroom Kingdom have been spotted in the marketing for the 2023 movie. Among them is Yoshi, who made a brief appearance in the Super Mario Bros. Movie trailer.

Is Yoshi in New Super Mario Bros U? ›

Mario's trusty-dusty dinosaur steed, first appearing in Super Mario World, returns in New Super Mario Bros. U. His Name Meaning "Go" in Japanese, he is hatched from an egg, Yoshi is always glad to help Mario and his friends.

Who is the villain in the Super Mario movie 2023? ›

King Bowser is the main antagonist of Illumination's 13th feature film The Super Mario Bros. Movie, an adaptation of Nintendo's Mario franchise. He is the arch-nemesis of Mario, who he believes is competition in his quest to romance Princess Peach.

Is Yoshi a raptor? ›

Yoshi is the Velociraptor-type dinosaur "royal pet" of President Koopa in the 1993 Super Mario Bros. film. Unlike most other inhabitants of Dinohattan, he retained his original reptilian form.

Does Mario 64 have Yoshi? ›

In Super Mario 64, Mario is the only playable character, and the only time you'll encounter Yoshi is at this point in the game. However, in the Nintendo DS version of Super Mario 64, Yoshi is the first character available for you to play as.

Does Yoshi have a dog? ›

Poochy is a dog that has appeared throughout the Yoshi franchise. In most games, he can be found in certain levels and serves as a safe platform. Poochy can walk over dangerous terrain, such as spikes and lava, allowing Yoshi to cross them safely.

Is Yoshi a female? ›

Despite his egg-laying abilities, Yoshi is considered male in most regions. However, Shigeru Miyamoto has gone on record and stated he is not sure if Yoshi is male or female. It could be that Yoshi has no official gender assigned to it, as the original Japanese does not use gender pronouns.

Is there a Lego Yoshi? ›

Description. Sometimes in life we all need a friend we can rely on. For LEGO® Super Mario™, Yoshi is definitely one of those friends!

Does Baby Yoshi grow? ›

Feeding the Baby Yoshis five enemies or objects—such as shells, coins, or active Grab Blocks—makes them turn into adult Yoshis. However, if a Baby Yoshi eats any power-up, it will grow up instantly.

Who is Yoshi dating? ›

Birdo and Yoshi are depicted to be a couple. Birdo made an earlier appearance than Yoshi. In Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, they are partners and their special items is the Yoshi Egg and Birdo Egg.

Who is the bad Luigi? ›

Waluigi is a fictional character in the Mario franchise. He plays the role of Luigi's arch-rival and accompanies Wario in spin-offs from the main Mario series, often for the sake of causing mischief and problems.

Who is the first Mario bad guy? ›

Bowser. Bowser or King Koopa (voiced by Kenneth W. James) is the king of the turtle-like Koopa race, a selfish troublemaker who wants to take over the Mushroom Kingdom. He is depicted as Mario's nemesis, and is the final boss of most Mario games.


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