The Super Mario Bros. Movie is fast-paced, energetic, and full of clever Nintendo references–so why does it feel so hollow?
The movie, a box office behemoth in spite of critical misgivings, is an amusing splash of color and silliness that follows the two plumber brothers as they are sucked into a pipe that connects them to another world–one in which Mario and Princess Peach must rescue Luigi from Bowser, who was world domination in mind.
Bowser, voiced by Jack Black, is the highlight; he’s mean, he’s tough, but he’s also in love with the Princess and has the songs to prove it. It’s when The Super Mario Bros. Movie gleefully goes in unexpected directions that the movie shines; when the filmmakers let loose just a little in what is otherwise a by-the-numbers kid’s flick; when the writers were clearly having the most fun.
The rest of the movie is passable–by the way, the whole Chris Pratt voice controversy is a non-issue–but it rarely power-ups the way you’d hope. Directors Aaron Horvath, Michael Jelenic, and Pierre Leduc pack their flick with all the Mario references and then some (Donkey Kong has a sizeable role) and everything clicks together well enough, but looking back it feels like more of a check-the-box exercise than anything else.
For the record, my 4.5-year-old enjoyed parts but overall was unimpressed. Probably for different reasons. But maybe not.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.