The Super Mario Bros. Movie (2023) Review

Quick Synopsis: Bowser wants to get married to Princess Peach, she would rather that doesn’t happen so enlists the help of a random plumber.

At the time of writing, The Super Mario Bros. Movie is the highest-grossing film of 2023, the sixth highest-grossing animated film of all time (already surpassing every Pixar movie with the exception of Incredibles 2), had the biggest opening weekend for an animated film, the first film based on a video game to gross over a billion dollars worldwide. That’s all well and good, but I’d be lying if I said it deserved those accolades. Fun fact; the highest-grossing animated film? The 2019 remake of The Lion King, that seems wrong somehow. This is a fun film, but that’s all it is. It looks absolutely gorgeous, the visuals (and the music) are full of interesting references and in-jokes, so you can tell the animators are true fans of the franchise. The writing? Not so much. A lot of the jokes don’t seem to be thought of specifically for this film, they could go into any movie. This means the whole script seems incredibly generic, nothing about it makes it stand out as either a very good movie or even as a Mario movie. There are a few plot points which are heavy references to the franchise, but they’re shoehorned in with all the subtlety and grace of a drunken elephant twerking. Yes, it is fun to see the karts appear, but they don’t really add anything to the narrative. That, along with many other moments, is just there for the sake of being there. Like they knew they needed to reference the karts so just threw them in where they could without an attempt to make it seem natural. There’s no attempt to be intelligent or appeal to anybody who’s not already expected to like it. There are too many moments where you’re acutely aware that you’re watching a kids’ film, with a few scenes which are (and this is not fun to say) kind of embarrassing. There’s no attempt to be anything better than a basic disposable kids’ film. It’s a shame. The Lego Movie has shown how films like this can and should be done; with wit and intelligence.

On the upside, Jack Black is fantastic. His singing the Peaches’ song is undoubtedly the best part of the whole thing. Most of the other vocal performers are fine, nothing special, they just exist in this movie. There’s nothing particularly wrong with wrong, but they’re all so generic that it’s difficult to remember who was who. It’s also much better than the previous attempt at a Mario movie (not that that’s difficult).

I imagine kids will like this, but it’s the kind of film which parents will be really annoyed about being forced to watch again and again. The best it will do for parents is remind them of playing the games as a youth. There are a few moments where tonally it might remind you of those terrible Friedberg And Seltzer parody movies where instead of jokes they just have references. Nobody wants to be reminded of those films, not even the people who were in them.

So in summary, it’s a fine movie. By which I mean, when someone asks how it is, all you can see is “It’s fine”. Nobody can doubt it’s a successful film, I just wish it was also a good one. I wish there was half as much love put into the narrative and dialogue as there is the animation.


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