The sands of time are moving on, and we are being left behind. The Super Mario Bros. Movie spits at the amicable and joyful charms of The Super Mario Brothers Super Show by using nostalgia as a tool to control the masses. Still, video game adaptations are having a second wind. Sonic the Hedgehog has managed to shift the momentum in favour of adapting broad and longstanding brands. Staunch fans of Super Mario, or at least the youth of today, will find the colourful charm and palatable Illumination designs fine enough. Rightly so. The Super Mario Bros. takes a longstanding generational staple and pushes through with an ambitious adaptation.
Charming all of that is, much of it comes from Chris Pratt’s absence. He may voice Mario but the time spent away from him, in the nicely drawn set pieces with Charlie Day’s Luigi and the well-formed encounters he has with those usual villains. It puts a level of character Mario Kart DS cannot quite muster for Shy Guys and Dry Bones. Flip over to Princess Peach (Anya Taylor-Joy) and Mario, whose storyline suffers from an inevitable and needed breakneck pace. Introducing power-ups, problems and villains for the future through set pieces and nice animation is all well and good but the nightmarish editing is hard to swallow. I Need A Hero leaves its mark too, as it did with Tetris and Shrek and whatever else is hoping to incorporate it into a cheap rendition of a character growing in strength. Still, quite the improvement over the Bob Hoskins version.
Still for all that lead character snoozefest, those supporting components are enjoyable enough. A tinge of nostalgia floats through and the self-aware spottiness of the humour and casting makes for a nice deconstruction of the simplistic story that started it all. Jack Black manages to bring out some solid antagonism as Bowser and manages to bring out that strange love of music he has in later games. Michael Jelenic and Aaron Hovarth utilise a lot of needle drops for original game pieces and throw as much of the classic bits and pieces as they can at the screen. Cheaper moments do not devalue the momentum garnered by The Super Mario Bros. Movie but do point toward an attention deficit. A shame too since the movie manages to instil a love for the kart-racing, the squandering of Donkey Kong for the sake of Seth Rogen’s inclusion is a shame, but it makes commercial sense.
The Super Mario Bros. Movie handles that balance. Seeing Donkey Kong look down on a tiny Mario and hearing Rogen’s laugh come out is astonishing and terror-inducing. It works well enough on a singular watch. Whether it has longevity to it is yet to be seen, but probably not. Decent for what it is, a tad sickly and a little underbaked where it matters most, The Super Mario Bros. Movie is a serviceable little feature that captures the charm of the games. Surprising considering this is the company that brought viewers Minions. Every few minutes are filled with a sight or sound that will chop up some nostalgia and sprinkle it into action-packed scenes. The best characters are inevitably side-lined, but the future is surprisingly bright for Mario and company.