Review: The Super Mario Bros. Movie

The Gonzo Journals

April 11th, 2023

I grew up on Mario. I was alive before he ever appeared in Donkey Kong or that rip off Krazy Kong – Google it – that used to sit in the front lobby of a defunct store around the corner from my house called “Howards” aka “Gibsons”. It was a Wal-Mart started by the mayor of Monroe, Louisiana and his brother before Wal-Mart was a worldwide thing. It was eventually sold to Wal-Mart. Polish a turd and it’s still a turd.

Everything changed when Mario Bros. hit arcades. We were introduced to Mario’s brother Luigi, and it was the first simultaneous two player game I ever remember playing. My brothers and I got it for Christmas on our short-lived Atari 5200 and played it until we broke our controllers. It sufficed until Shigeru Miyamoto smoked a ton of weed and produced Super Mario Bros. The world was forever changed.

The Nintendo Entertainment System took the world by storm, and it has yet to let up. All these years later and people are still collecting old games, creating new games, and making modern updates of their original offerings. Everybody had one, and Super Mario Bros was the pack in title. Now, Mario is the most recognized IP in the entire world other than Mickey Mouse and Jesus. I wonder who’d win in a fight. My money is on Mario. Never bet against an Italian!

In 1993, we got our first offering from Mario Bros. on the big screen starring Bob Hoskins aka Eddie from Who Framed Roger Rabbit, John Leguizamo aka from everything cool that’s ever been filmed, Dennis Hopper aka the best scene in True Romance, Samantha Mathis aka my teenage dream girl from Pump Up The Volume, and Harry Potter’s evil aunt. I’m sure she has a name but that’s how you’ll know her. I’m certain.

The trailer made us all believe it was going to be some kind of sci fi lunacy stuck in a world which resembled the city from Blade Runner. Damn, were we ever wrong. This was the second time I realized that Hollywood lies to you in trailers and gives two poops and a poke about delivering films true to their source material. The first one was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III. Why? Why? Why??? Mario 93 was bad. Really bad.

For thirty years, Nintendo refused to slap any of their properties on the big screen. This meant no Zelda or Metroid movies, but that was probably a good thing. As I discussed in my Dungeons & Dragons review yesterday, Lord of the Rings has set the bar for fantasy films. A Zelda film back then would’ve been a lackluster POS long forgotten by now, and another black eye for Nintendo.

Then, the Marvel Cinematic Universe was ejaculated out of the Great Disney Penis of Destiny. Suddenly, everything is connected, and you must watch a dozen films to know what the hell is going on with the story line. I hate it. I hate what it’s doing to Star Wars and every other property I held dear as a child. I have a feeling Nintendo is about to go the same way.

Enter: The Super Mario Bros. Movie 2023

We took our eight-year-old son to see this for his birthday last night. It was fun, very colorful, fast paced, and everything you’d expect from a modern animated movie. No, that’s NOT a compliment. The kid absolutely loved it and that’s all that matters. That was its target audience. Mission accomplished. Insert things children recognize, fill it full of rainbows, speed up the frame rate so everything is a complicated blur, and make it noisy. To a child’s brain, this is the equivalent to an orgasm. To a writer?

There was NO story. Everything and everyone existed and followed the same rules of the games. No need for a story. Everyone already knew who everyone was, what they stood for, and what they needed to do. Hollywood just threw that into a blender, tossed in some recognizable voice actors, planted it, cultivated it, dried it, ground it down, rolled it up, and stuck it in children’s mouths. The screen provided the lighter and the rest is a convoluted drug trip. A watered-down pre-school version of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Fear and Loathing was an adventure, though. The Super Mario Bros. Movie just tickled the nuts of everyone who’s ever picked up a Nintendo controller. Fun, pretty, but zero depth.

All the games are included here from Donkey Kong to Super Smash Brothers and Mario Kart. Princess Peach even drops a line about “infinite universes” as she looks up to the night sky. Basically, here comes the Zelda and Metroid movies that will eventually tie everything together into a Smash Bros. cinematic universe. Anything to keep from giving me that Voltron movie I’ve always wanted, right Hollywood? Bastards.

Yes, everything was pretty and recognizable. It was all made with a computer, after all, just like the games. I’m surprised some kid didn’t have a controller plugged into the movie screen playing along. The film was one giant Easter Egg to Nintendo’s properties, and that’s not good enough for me. Then again, I’m not an eight-year-old.

The only thing I could relate to was the voice cast, and that was bland as well. Chris Pratt has been the subject of ridicule since it was first announced he’d be playing the lead role, but he wasn’t too bad. There’s enough “Mario” in his voice to make it believable rather than the ninety minutes of an over the top, stereotypical on the verge of racist Italian like in the video games. I’ve always been disappointed in Mario’s in-game voice. He was supposed to be a bad ass who fought monkeys and dragons and shit, not some screaming, annoying pizza salesman from a seventy’s television commercial.

Luigi? He was played by Charlie Day. Exactly. Who in the hell is Charlie Day? Not bad. He said things.

Jack Black as Bowser was the only standout in the film. He seemed as though he was having fun with the character, which is par for the course when it comes to Jack Black. I’m not just saying this because I have VIP passes to see him in May at the Shaky Knees Music Festival in Atlanta. They needed someone to sing a Tenacious D style song about Princess Peach so…

Seth Rogan played Donkey Kong or, as it made me feel, Donkey Kong became Seth Rogan. You could almost smell the smoke coming from the sound booth whenever that character opened his mouth. I’m not complaining, I’m a big fan of weed, but can Seth Rogan play any character successfully other than Seth Rogan? He even did the laugh. You know the laugh.

Keegan Michael-Key played Toad. They changed the pitch a bit to mimic a short, mushroom dude, but it was Keegan Michael-Key. You wouldn’t even know it until you saw it in the credits, but it was him. He always played second fiddle to Jordan Peele anyway.

Finally, Anya Taylor-Joy, the most beautiful, mesmerizing alien on the planet, played Princess Peach. I mean, the character is a girl, so they needed a girl to do the voice. She got a paycheck.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that any of these characters could’ve been voiced by anyone at all and it wouldn’t have mattered. Children were sitting in the theater slobbering all over themselves from the seizure inducing visuals and weren’t listening to a damn thing being said by anyone. None of the characters had much of a personality. Once again, we knew who they were because we’ve been playing them in video games for forty freaking years. Nintendo just had to polish it up a bit, convert it into a film, and ship it. Done. A ninety-minute commercial to sell more Nintendo Switch consoles at the last minute before they release their newest console and stop supporting the other one completely. Ingenious!

Don’t get me wrong, it was a fun movie, and that’s why we go to the movies in the first place, but don’t expect any depth whatsoever. Honestly, the 1993 film had more personality and a better story. Hell, it was live action with huge set pieces and stunts as well. It took way more talent and effort than a team of people sitting at a damn computer animating some characters that were technically already animated! Does Mario 93 suck? Yes! Did I find it more enjoyable than the pre-school mind control, Clockwork Orange experiment I saw last night? Yes.

In the end, my son loved it, and that was the only reason we were there in the first place. He was lucky enough to visit Super Nintendo World at Universal Studios Hollywood a few weeks ago and his nostalgia was still riding high on that experience. Last night was one of the greatest nights of his young life, and I hope he remembers it fondly throughout his existence on this planet. I hope he’ll tell his own children all about it years from now when Nintendo has rebooted their franchise for the third time, telling them how much better “his” version was back in the day. Universal is going to milk this shit Disney style until he no longer recognizes the thing he used to love. I know the feeling. Rise of Skywalker…

This was an enjoyable film, but so are YouTube videos of people filming trains and Hognose snakes. If I placed The Super Mario Bros. Movie next to the Dungeons & Dragons film currently playing in theaters, I had a better time with D&D. It didn’t need to shove the nostalgia down my throat, which is what every film franchise attempts to do nowadays. As long as we “remember”, there’s no need to try. At least that’s what Hollywood believes. Our lining up to blow the masters of nostalgia doesn’t prove otherwise. Theaters should begin selling knee pads along with popcorn and sodas.

3 out of 5 Peaches.


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