Mamma Mia, spoilers! If you want to experience the masterpiece of a film yourself, please go watch it first, and then come back and read this article afterwards!
Directed by Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic, “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” was released April 5. It captures a new take on the popular Nintendo franchise, bringing their famous video game characters to life in an animated film produced by Universal Pictures and Illumination studios in collaboration with Nintendo. The film follows a developed origin story behind the two Italian American brothers and plumbers, Mario (voiced by Chris Pratt) and Luigi (voiced by Charlie Day). Following their plumber company debut’s via commercial, Mario and Luigi incidentally fall into an alternate world where they become involved in a battle between the Mushroom Kingdom, being hailed by Princess Peach (voiced by Anya Taylor-Joy), and the Koopas, led by Bowser (voiced by Jack Black). Mario sends himself on a mission to rescue Luigi from the clutches of Bowser, who wants to take over the world and forcibly marry Peach, with the help of Peach, Toad (voiced by Keegan-Michael Key) and Donkey Kong (voiced by Seth Rogen).
“The Super Mario Bros. Movie” has done exceptionally well in theaters, grossing $871 million worldwide as of April 23 to earn the title of 2023’s biggest movie. While the movie accommodates younger audiences, it’s clear that moviegoers in their 20s, 30s and 40s — those of us who grew up on the Mario franchise — have driven its box office success. Wellesley News editors Brenda Perez Pelaez and Andreea Sabau provide their perspectives on the movie below to help you understand how Mario and Luigi won over the world.
Q: What were your first impressions?
Brenda: Fantastic movie. I absolutely enjoyed watching this film, despite the target audience for the film being children. With this in mind, the majority of the theater I had gone to were full of college students and the occasional child with their parents. The audience was raucous, cheering and screaming for the film as much as the premiere night I had gone to see “Avengers: Endgame (2019),” despite the fact I had gone to see it the third weekend after its release. Young adults and kids alike laughed at the childish humor expressed by Donkey Kong and Luigi’s hysterical comments about and to Mario. After the movie, I even heard someone comment to his friends, “It’s even better the third time watching it!”
Andreea: I am not what one might call an art critic; I rarely follow pop culture discourse, meaning I don’t learn about new movies until months after their release. “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” was different: as soon as the release date was announced, I sent my friends a Google Calendar invite for April 5, the date of the movie’s debut. While we didn’t end up seeing it until April 22, the theater was packed two weeks after the movie’s release, mostly with college students. The audience interacted with the movie regularly, making it a lively showing. It was hard not to react to my favorite Nintendo references or laugh at the movie’s creative soundtrack. The movie was simultaneously nonchalant — everything about Chris Pratt’s voice juxtaposed with Mario’s body — and precisely made, as evidenced by the flawlessly fluid animation.
Q: What are some of your favorite songs from the soundtrack?
Brenda: You cannot go wrong with “Peaches” by Jack Black, because oh my goodness, you are going to have this song repeatedly stuck in your head for days to come, and you are not going to complain that it does! However, I would be remiss if I were not to discuss the incredible soundtrack of this film, where all-time favorite Super Mario Bros jingles are remixed with a cinematic twist to them!
Andreea: Everything about “Peaches” by Jack Black is absolutely perfect; this song is truly the ideal way to confess your love for someone else. Honestly, if I was Princess Peach, I would have been more flattered, and maybe this movie would have ended a bit differently. But if I had to choose another song, the “Mario Brothers Rap” by Ali Dee deserves a shout out for being a truly jarring way to open a Nintendo movie.
Q: Was there anything you didn’t like about the film?
Brenda: I suppose my only criticisms for this movie would be the illogical decisions behind battle strategies and planning that all characters were subject to. There was a moment where Princess Peach tells her committee that she is going to secure the Jungle Kingdom’s efforts against the Koopas, she sends herself to travel and ask for aid, despite the fact she is the leader of the Mushroom Kingdom! In the penultimate battle, Bowser steps in front of the Super Star to prevent Mario from grabbing it, when he could have just grabbed it from behind! However, I got over their strategies and plans once I realized I didn’t necessarily belong to this movie’s target demographic, who most likely needs this sort of storytelling to understand the film.
Andreea: The ending that Brenda just described felt a bit anticlimactic. I almost wanted the battle scene between Mario, Luigi and Bowser to go on for longer, to be enveloped in more agony. Watching how easily Mario and Luigi beat Bowser reminded me of when I accidentally played Super Mario Bros U Deluxe on the assist mode, which frustrated me due to the lack of challenges. But the incredible post-credits scenes ensured that I didn’t walk away from the movie feeling disappointed — the “Peaches” encore was truly a cultural reset for the audience.
Q: What was your favorite video game reference made in the movie?
Brenda: I am not going to even deny it, but Baby Mario and Baby Luigi. There’s a specific scene where Luigi reflects on a flashback to when Mario saved him from a bully when they were kids, and when I tell you I screamed “OH MY GOODNESS!” when I saw them, I in fact did. I simply wasn’t expecting their appearance! I was also a sucker for the depiction of the lucky block powerups!
Andreea: Without a doubt, Mario Kart. Listen, I’m sorry this isn’t the “fringe Nintendo game” you wanted to hear — no Nintendo games are fringe anyways — but Mario Kart and I go way back. Over my 21 years of life, I’ve owned four different Mario Kart editions, and I have no intent on stopping after Nintendo releases its next console. My friends are genuinely terrified to play against me on Mario Kart 8. We are not the same.
Q: Last but not least, who would you recommend to see this movie?
Brenda: When I tell you this is the movie of our generation, and for many generations to come, this is that movie. Whether you are a gamer, a normie, a kid or an adult, this film will be your film.
Andreea: If you grew up playing Nintendo games, watch it. If you DIDN’T grow up playing Nintendo games, watch it.