Mario Movie Review

Ethan Kautz and Brady Eatchel

Everyone and their grandma knows who Mario is. Since 1985, Nintendo has been building one of the largest multimedia franchises in the world around the fat italian plumber. From video games, to comics, to TV shows, and near-infinite merchandise, the immense popularity and commercialization of the brand is impossible to ignore. The 2023 Super Mario Bros. Movie is only the latest installment in Nintendo’s media empire. 


News of the movie had been making waves since late 2021 when Nintendo officially announced the cast. With an all-star lineup including Charlie Day, Seth Rogan, Anya Taylor-Joy, and Chris Pratt, many had high hopes for the movie. Others set their expectations much lower as Illumination, the studio responsible for creating Despicable Me and Minions, was selected as the production company for the project.

Other expectations could be drawn from the “The (Insert Brand Here) Movie” format. Movies like The Lego Movie, The Emoji Movie, The Angry Birds Movie, The Playmobil Movie, The Bee Movie, Trolls, and many others all follow a generic plot structure in order to sell merchandise. The Mario Movie would also likely follow this trend.


Unfortunately, this is not the only Mario movie we’ve gotten. In 1993, we got a live action Mario movie. The 1993 film is known for being one of the strangest film adaptations ever made. There were strange decisions galore. A few examples include, a human-dinosaur hybrid version of Bowser, setting the movie in a post-apocalyptic Mushroom Kingdom and making Toad just some guy.  In fact, Bob Hoskins, who played Mario in the 1993 film said that it was “the worst thing I ever did”. So understandably, the bar was incredibly low going into the new Mario film.


But despite the uncertainty of just how good the Mario Movie would be, it did quite well financially. The biggest success around the movie was that it managed to capture the charm and fun of the Super Mario series and stayed true to the games it was adapting. Throughout the film, the characters behaved just like they do in the games and other various pieces of Mario media. With Luigi being cautious and good-willed, Bowser being evil but also somewhat dorky and Mario being brave and heroic.


Some of the most striking backlash against the film was aimed at Chris Pratt’s lackluster performance. As trailer after trailer debuted, his half-hearted attempt at a Brooklyn accent worried many diehard fans who expected the Mario character’s typical Italian accent. When actually watching the movie though, his underwhelming performance is easily forgettable.


Other critics have taken issue with the plot. Hardcore Mario fans were quick to respond to criticisms of the plot with the claim that it’s accurate to the almost non-existent story of the Mario video games. While it’s true that the video games have almost no story, it ultimately ignores the main problem. Video games are able to mitigate lackluster storytelling with entertaining gameplay, but movies rely almost entirely on good storytelling. Movies don’t have the privilege of being able to rely on entertaining gameplay. To be honest though, the story isn’t the biggest problem that the movie has.


Rather than being plot-driven, successful films with simple plots often become amazing character-driven stories. The biggest problem with the Mario Movie is that almost every character is bland. While Chris Pratt’s Mario and Anya Taylor-Joy’s Peach take a starring role in the movie, almost all of their dialogue is generic and uninspired trash. There’s not a single memorable line in the entire movie. The only exception to this is Jack Black’s enigmatic performance as Bowser. With his song from the movie, “Peaches” being an instant hit.


Another problem caused by the simple plot is pacing. Characters instantly travel from location to location and almost no plot progression feels truly earned. Chris Pratt’s Mario, the main character, also has no character arc. At the beginning of the movie it’s established that he wants to run a successful plumbing business, and at the end of the movie he saves the city. There’s no character growth. Mario acts like Mario the whole movie. He believes in himself in the beginning and at the end of the movie.


Although, the movie was most certainly not perfect. With the story lacking a whole lot of depth and the film bouncing from one scene to the next without any time to breathe. This most likely was a symptom of the film’s short runtime and target audience. With today’s attention spans being shortened by short-form videos on platforms like Tik Tok, Youtube, and Instagram, it’s a detrimental necessity that the movie constantly bounces around to keep the audience interested in its otherwise bland world.


Overall, the film feels like a movie adaptation of the Super Mario Bros. Super Show from 1989. The theme song for the series even plays in the movie. The plot of the movie is also the same as the show, with Mario and Luigi being plumbers in Brooklyn who get sucked into a magic warp pipe and have to stop Bowser from marrying Peach. The Brooklyn accent Chris Pratt uses in the movie is something that was a staple in the Super Show, as well as other series from around that time period that featured Mario.


Looking back at it, this movie is full of ups and downs. With the story and characters being somewhat thin and cookie cutter, but the movie being chalked full of action and details. In the end, the movie is still enjoyable despite its flaws. And in our humble opinion, it is worth checking out if you’re a Mario fan. The Mario Movie is Grizzly Growl approved.