BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Ten minutes into “The Super Mario Bros Movie” there will be an overwhelming desire to pull the plug on seeing the production. There really is no reason to stick around and keep watching a movie that only exists to promote Nintendo games and toys.
After “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” showed how cleverly a game could be adapted to the big screen, there was hope for the efforts to do that with “Mario Bros.” Any chance of that happening fades quickly as directors Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic have opted to merely take sections of the video games and bind them together with a plot so thin you could read the instructions on a cereal box through it.
Here’s what to expect. The majority of the movie is made up of sequences of Mario or Princess Peach jumping from blocks to girders to floating items and then back to blocks and girders. When this isn’t happening, the group speeds across the rainbow road on carts. Both are key elements of the video games and should be part of the movie. There are just too many of the lifted moments in the film devoted to these scenes.
Making a movie that is nothing but a big-screen version of the game takes away the major element of what has made the “Mario Bros.” games so popular – interactivity. It is a lot more exciting to be guiding the colorful heroes through multiple gaming adventures than to be sitting back and passively watching the tales unfold.
The film opens with a television commercial featuring Mario (voiced by Chris Pratt) and Luigi (Charlie Day) pitching their new plumbing business. They are speaking with very stereotypical Italian accents. This section exists to explain why the characters don’t have an accent throughout the rest of the film and why plumbers wear white gloves.
The action picks up while they are trying to fix a water main break that threatens to wipe out Brooklyn. It seems like it would have been a better joke if they were trying to save Flushing, a neighborhood in Queens.
Mario and Luigi are sucked into a magic pipe under the city that takes them to two different video game worlds. Luigi ends up in the Dark Lands and gets taken prisoner by power hungry – and lovesick – Bowser (Jack Black). Mario lands in the world ruled by Princess Peach (Anya Taylor-Joy) where he tries to enlist her to help him save Luigi. She has her own problems as Bowser plans to wipe out her kingdom.
That is as complicated as the script by Matthew Fogel (“The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part”) ever gets. There is an obligation by the production team to keep in mind that there will be young audience members seeing the film. It is the fact that they went to such a simplistic level with the story that it ended up with only a marginal amount of entertainment value.
Efforts to appease older audience members include a soundtrack that along with a variety of versions of the “Mario Bros.” theme music, includes songs by AC/DC (“Thunderstruck”), A-ha (“Take On Me”) and Bonnie Tyler (“Holding Out for a Hero”). Those are great songs but just don’t fit the vibe of this production.
That’s also the problem when it comes to the voice casting. There was an explosion of negativity online when it was announced Pratt was the voice of Mario. They were justified in their concerns as he doesn’t have a distinct enough voice for the role. Day is much stronger as Luigi.
Taylor-Joy is a top-notch performer, but her voice is not her strength. The star of “The Queen’s Gambit” and “The Menu” has an expressive face that should always be seen in her work.
It is obvious that in an effort to appeal to a wide demographic, the movie fails on all counts because of a weak script, an over dependence on elements lifted directly from the video game and several voice casting mistakes. It is game over very quickly with “The Super Mario Bros. Movie.”
Super Mario Bros. Movie
Cast: Chris Pratt, Charlie Day, Anya Taylor-Joy, Jack Black, Seth Rogen, Keegan-Michael Key.
Directors: Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic
Rated: PG for action and video game violence
Running time: 92 minutes.