Review: Nintendo power-ups your nostalgia with the new Super Mario Bros Movie

On April 5th, The Super Mario Bros movie came to theaters everywhere. Directed by Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic, it’s the story of, well, the Super Mario Brothers. Michael Fogel, known for Minions: The Rise of Gru, wrote the screenplay. The voice cast includes Chris Pratt (Mario), Charlie Day (Luigi), Jack Black (Bowser), and Anya Taylor-Joy as Princess Peach.  

Adapting a video game, especially a series like The Super Mario Brothers, isn’t easy. Because of the popularity, there’s a ton of pressure. Nintendo tried before in 1993 with a film that was both a commercial and critical flop. The task this time before Nintendo and their partners Universal and Illumination was to avoid repeating past mistakes.

Did Nintendo rise to the challenge? Yes, unequivocally. The Super Mario Brothers Movie is fun, fast-paced, and full of heart. It’s a family-friendly adventure that hits all the right nostalgic notes. The animation is stunning and gorgeously transports to the world of the games. 

Family anchors the The Super Mario Bros. Movie story

The Super Mario Bros. Movie has many emotional moments anchored by family and borne out of familial relationships. I would expect nothing less from a movie with “Brothers” in the title. The film explores the intense sibling bond of Mario Mario and Luigi Mario – yes, those are their names – and how they need each other. The two can be thrown into a world full of mushrooms or lava – or even face the disappointment of their judgmental parents – but as long as they have each other, they will be okay. It’s a beautiful message that is woven seamlessly into the film. 

The Voice Cast

The voice cast and talents of The Super Mario Bros. Movie movie were stellar and perfectly fit the tone. Chris Pratt embodied Mario with a voice very similar to what was featured in the original Nintendo games. He brought his trademark charm to the character, making you want to root for him on his quest. The Wahoos were spot on. Anya Taylor-Joy’s portrayal of Peach inspired confidence as the ruler of the mushroom kingdom, and Charlie Day’s Luigi was excellent.

Jack Black absolutely rocked it as Bowser and was suitably larger than life. Even though it was animation, the line between where Black ended and the villainous turtle was blurred, and it totally worked for the film. His catchy musical number Peaches could have been straight out of School of Rock or a Tenacious D performance.  

The Nostalgia Factor

If you’re of a certain age, it’s hard not to feel a sense of nostalgia watching The Super Mario Bros. Movie. Sprinkled throughout the film are tons of references and easter eggs. Mario and company are characters that defined many of our childhoods and teenagehood, and those references trigger all those feelings. This movie satisfies the promise of nostalgic feelings demanded by the IP. 

There are subtle nods – for example, the “Jump Man” video game that bears the same name as Mario initially did. But overt moments of nostalgia in the film also flood you with good feelings – you can’t help but have goosebumps at Brian Tyler’s score, for instance. There are cute moments of nostalgia, too – the antique shop in the Mushroom Kingdom with the 8-bit items. 

The Communal Experience

It is often lamented that the movie-watching experience is segmented these days. The pandemic accelerated the trend to streaming and watching things on a smaller screen. Streaming exclusive movies and short theatrical windows helped to make this the norm, too. Many articles have been written about the death of the box office, and there are frequent discussions about box office numbers as if they were baseball stats. 

 With all that said, there are some movies that you’re cheating yourself out of the full cinematic experience by just watching them at home. (And the studios know this, too. Just consider the recent news from Daredevil’s Charlie Cox about his appearance in Spiderman: No Way Home. The actor told an audience at Megacon: Orlando that the movie’s director told him to pause his performance because theater audiences would clap.) 

The Super Mario Bros. Movie is one worth seeing in a theater filled with strangers because of the communal experience. A few moments in these shared experiences stood out and are worth noting. Hearing the kid voices in the theater react to the characters as they did things or faced peril was a joy. And at the movie’s end, many of the kids (and because of that, the adults!) clapped. It was sweet and heartwarming. 

Final thoughts on The Super Mario Bros. Movie

One last thought about The Super Mario Bros Movie… it is a joyous antidote to the doom and gloom of world news. The nostalgia is comforting. You can’t help but leave the theater happy after watching it, and that’s something worthwhile. Check it out sooner rather than later if you have the time. 

Have you watched The Super Mario Bros Movie yet? What did you think? Join the conversation by leaving a comment or finding us on Twitter @MoviesWeTexted.  

You can read all of our reviews for Children’s and Family entertainment here.