The Super Mario Bros. Movie: Strange Yet Satisfying
Is the film as bad as critics say? No.
After an insane amount of excitement from die-hard fans and casual movie-goers alike, the Super Mario Bros. Movie finally hit cinemas last week and the reviews have been... well, harsh. Critics have generally displayed unfavourable reviews to the film, dubbing it as 'lazy' and only being good for die-hard fans of the series while leaving nothing of note for those more unfamiliar with the series.
Then, on the other hand, general audiences have given the film rather positive reviews, with the film garnering an outstanding 96% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. So, this begs the question: is it good, bad or just... okay?
The film is certainly exhilarating, gorgeously animated and never has a dull moment with deep-cut references to the games throughout. However, it distinctly lacks any real story or truly important characterisation. While this may sound like an odd criticism for a film clearly made for small children and one based off of a video game not exactly famous for its gripping plots, this isn't really a valid excuse. There have been a plethora of films for very young children that have included a story that, while simple, satisfies audiences of any age. In fact, Illumination even had the benefit of adapting a franchise without much plot as they had the freedom to essentially take it in any direction they wanted. Instead, the film is an extreme example of flash over any substance.
Any trouble or conflict the characters find themselves in is resolved in a matter of minutes without any issues. Characters feel immune to any stakes which can not be excused by the film's target audience as there are plenty of movies for young children which incorporate genuine weight to the actions on screen. Meanwhile, in this movie any moments dedicated to any of the good guys' failure are quickly dismissed once something new and exciting enters the picture.
That doesn't mean it's not fun, however. For kids and adults alike, the film serves as an exciting one that takes the audience to a myriad of beautifully detailed, colourful worlds reminiscent of the source material. We are also treated to a plethora of genuinely funny jokes throughout the entire film, with the feud between Mario and Donkey Kong being a highlight of its comedy.
A big concern of many people's upon the film's announcement was the cast, with many people worrying that Chris Pratt wouldn't be able to achieve a voice fitting for the titular character. The cast, however, deliver performances that may not be the best (apart from Jack Black who, as expected, gave his all to his role as Bowser) but ultimately DO fit the characters they're playing. Sure, Christ Pratt doing a weird mish-mash of a Brooklyn and more traditional Italian accent isn't the best, but it certainly does fit this iteration of our favourite plumber. Each cast member gives a voice to their respective role that may not be accurate to ones we've heard in the game series, but work well in the medium of film.
A big criticism of the film has been that it's only truly good for big fans of the series. This is simultaneously true and inaccurate. There is plenty for casual fans with the film being a nice concise hour and a half of non-stop action accompanied by decent voice acting. Although, the argument that it is only best enjoyed by long-time fans is certainly valid. A lot of the references to the lesser-known entries to the game series will be completely lost on those not familiar with them. Plus, the film being practically entirely made up of these references will undoubtedly leave many people unengaged and disinterested in what is has to offer. For a fan, on the other hand, being taken on a journey of constant nods to various aspects of the beloved franchise results in the film being incredibly satisfying.
Overall, the film's complete commitment to its source material and well-placed humour results in an exciting experience that gives fans and younger audiences something to enjoy. Its biggest downfall? It fails to justify its own existence by providing us with the most basic component of film making: a somewhat substantial and engaging story with slower pacing dedicated to conflict or downfall. But as a fun romp for the whole family to laugh at (in a positive way) and as a genuinely loving ode to the franchise, it certainly is worth a watch.