The Plot: Brooklyn brothers Mario (Chris Pratt) and Luigi (Charlie Day) are inseparable. No plumbing job is too much for them to deal with and they have a habit of finding their way out of sticky situations. Attempting to solve a huge leak in their neighbourhood, they tumble down a pipe and find themselves transported and separated into two different worlds. One is composed of rainbow colours and mushrooms headed up by Princess Peach (Anya Taylor-Joy), while the other is a dark and forbidding place run by lovesick monster Bowser (Jack Black). Mario unites with Princess Peach to find his brother…
The Verdict: As has been proven over time, videogames are notoriously hard to adapt for the cinematic realm. Studio vaults are full of discarded and unloved adaptations, gathering dust while their interactive counterparts continue to churn out more successful new editions. Videogames have become more experimental and cinematic while films have become more…well, stayed the same. There’s no cross-pollination here and that’s one of the reasons why videogame adaptations have got stuck in a looping rut. And so it is with The Super Mario Bros. Movie, a new CG-animated take on the 40-year arcade and later console game. Hopes that it might banish memories of the notorious 1993 live action adaptation have proved fruitless, as this is just another bland adaptation that doesn’t know what to do with itself.
Going down the animation route at least sets itself apart from its predecessor, cleaving closer to the videogame but with a Hollywood sheen to it. There are power-ups, platform jumping and Donkey Kong showing who is the boss, voiced with the familiar chuckle of Seth Rogen. It’s bright, cheerful and full of primary colours which will no doubt appeal to young children. It does look and sound acceptable enough given animation studio Illumination’s pedigree. The animation needs to establish its own visual identity, characterisation and plot mechanics. That’s not quite what happens though. The polished animation is really just a distraction from how soulless this whole enterprise is. Co-directors Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic appear to be frantically hammering the gamepad from scene to scene, pushing the plot along with barely a breath taken in between. It’s a videogame adaptation for short-attention spans over an Easter weekend getting a sugar rush on chocolate eggs. At 92 minutes, it already feels overlong.
There’s little attempt here to establish the film’s own identity and make it something distinctive and memorable. Mario and Luigi, ditching the cod Italian accents, spend most of the film apart but there’s little sense of their bond of brotherhood coming into play. Luigi gets short-changed anyway, more like an extra than a character. Bowser is less the big bad and more a panto villain with no sense of timing, though Jack Black does great voice work in the sound booth. One can imagine him stomping about, giving a performance as large as his impressive beard these days. There’s not much else to recommend about The Super Mario Bros. Movie though. It’s another forgettable studio animation that comes across as filmmaking by committee and is manufactured to death. It’s very much feature-length product placement with no personality of its own, which is a sad state of affairs given how good studio animation can be when done right (e.g. Puss In Boots: The Last Wish). Game over for this one. The search for the one great videogame adaptation continues.
Rating: 2 / 5
Review by Gareth O’Connor
In short: Game over
Directed by Aaron Horvath, Michael Jelenic.
Starring Chris Pratt, Charlie Day, Anya Taylor-Joy, Jack Black, Seth Rogen.