‘The Super Mario Bros. Movie’ (2023) Review: Mama Mia For The Kids And Nostalgic Players

As someone who has never played a Mario game (only ever held a Nintendo for half a second), I felt a little bit out of place in a room packed with fans dressed in their merchandise—t-shirts and snapbacks with their two favorite brothers on them—but as the movie began, I found myself enjoying their little hoots, even if I didn’t entirely understand the references. For noobs such as myself, “The Super Mario Bros.” tells the story of Mario and Luigi of Brooklyn, who accidentally fall into another world where there are mushroom kingdoms and evil turtles. A princess is on a mission to defeat an evil turtle, and Mario will help her so that he can be reunited with his beloved brother. To begin with, we need to address the impeccable animation and sound design of “The Super Mario Bros.” As we hear in the movie as well, everything is so adorable, from Mario’s flying mustache and the soft-looking mushrooms to the princess’s heart-shaped bangs and, of course, the little toads. Everything looks so good, and you just want to hold them in your hands.

As we’ve already established, I’ve never played this game, so I walked in with a little bit of trepidation about what story exactly could be told through Mario. To my surprise, it’s a well-crafted tale for young children to appreciate endurance and sibling love. What “Frozen” was for sisters, “Super Mario Bros.” could be for brothers. I’d definitely suggest watching it with your sibling for a more heartfelt experience. The film is a slice-of-life tale that introduces the characters of the franchise and gives one the motivation to always get back up and “never know when to quit.”

There are references in every second scene of the film, and if you’re a fan of the game, you’re bound to be counting everything that you notice in the film. Rather than a Mario film, it is a homage to the game and an introduction to the world of everything Super Mario Brothers. The little kid sitting next to me was yelling at the screen every five minutes, making it very clear how much she was actually enjoying “The Super Mario Bros.” The action is fantastic, and although the pacing is a little bit slow in the beginning, it picks up drastically when Mario and the princess visit the Monkey King. The Mario Kart sequence was especially enjoyable, and now I want to drive on rainbow roads.

For a movie that is quite so visually enchanting, there is no need to really care about the story. “The Super Mario Bros.” is clearly meant for kids, and that’s perfectly alright. It almost feels like a stepping stone for the next set of movies to come with one mid-credit scene and a post-credit scene, introducing a fan-favorite character and leaving gamers wanting more. Stand-out characters have to be Bowser and the little Toad, who will do anything to keep the princess safe, even bring out his little pan (which definitely brings back memories of “Tangled”). Jack Black as Bowser is fantastic, and the singing makes you want to leave everything and re-watch “School of Rock.”

For the rest of the cast, it’s almost impossible not to see the actual actor who is voicing the characters rather than the characters, which is kind of a turn-off. Of course, for the kids who don’t know these people, it won’t be a bother, but for someone like me, it was a little hard not to see Anya-Taylor Joy every time Princess Peach spoke. Chris Pratt is decent as Mario, and Charlie Day does a really good job as the fearful yet adorable Luigi. Seth Rogen as Donkey Kong is super fun, and the character’s banter with Mario will definitely bring out some laughs. Amongst the fantastic soundtrack from the game, adapted perfectly by Brian Tyler, they also use random 80s music in the movie, which is definitely not the first thing we think of when we think of Mario, but I enjoyed the sequence with “Take on Me” nonetheless. I would not say the same thing about “Holding Out For A Hero,” though.

Illumination Entertainment does a good job taking the beloved Nintendo character (Nintendo putting out its IP after many, many years) and turning it into the beginning of a new cinematic universe that could possibly be really big for the gaming world. It is very clear that “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” is intended to bring in an audience to have fun rather than learn a lesson or find a balance between adults and children’s viewing experiences for a PG film (like “Into the Spiderverse“). The action sequences are especially fun to watch and make one feel like one is actually playing the game. As Mario gawks at the stunning palace in the mushroom kingdom, so will the kids in the audience. If you have kids, take them to this movie because it will definitely be an enjoyable experience for the whole family. Unlike the previous Super Mario Bros. movie that most people would like to avoid talking about, this movie looks to be becoming a super hit, and if that does happen, it won’t be surprising to see a new Nintendo-film world that, safe to say, many people have already been waiting for.

If you’re not into movies that don’t put much effort into screenwriting or if you generally hate kids’ movies, then don’t watch “The Super Mario Bros.” But if you’re remotely interested in a visually charming, animated film, then you should definitely give this one a go. There’s nothing remotely terrible about this movie; it only sees its audience as somewhat dumb, which makes it a little bit jarring for an adult, but if you’re a fan of the Mario games, there is a lot of nostalgia attached to the film, making it enjoyable anyway. From what I saw around me, fans of the game definitely have a lot to enjoy, even if it is not intended for 30-somethings. The nostalgia and easter eggs alone will bring a smile to fans’ faces. It’s a perfect children’s movie with no strange innuendos, profanity, etc. Children can freely watch this and learn the power of staying motivated. Mario and Donkey Kong’s drive to prove their worth to their fathers are all very cute to see. I’d give this cute, animated film 3.5 out of 5 carts that move rather swiftly for how short this film is. Extra half a point for the cynical Lumaliee, who really pushes the humor in this film for the few minutes of the character’s existence.

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Ruchika Bhat
Ruchika Bhat
Ruchika, or "Ru," is a fashion designer and stylist by day and a serial binge-watcher by night. She dabbles in writing when she has the chance and loves to entertain herself with reading, K-pop dancing, and the occasional hangout with friends.

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