Star Rating:

The Super Mario Bros. Movie

Directors: Aaron Horvath, Michael Jelenic

Actors: Chris Pratt, Jack Black, Seth Rogen, Anya Taylor-Joy

Release Date: Friday 7th April 2023

Genre(s): Adventure, Animation, Family

Running time: 92 minutes

Working in a struggling plumbing business, brothers Mario and Luigi (voices of Chris Pratt and Charlie Day) stumble into a secret passage pipe beneath New York that transports them to a far-off world. There, they encounter Princess Peach (voice of Anya Taylor-Joy), who is trying to defend her people from Bowser (voice of Jack Black). Enlisting the help of Toad (voice of Keegan Michael-Key) and Donkey Kong (voice of Seth Rogen), they set off to save the Mushroom Kingdom...

Going into 'The Super Mario Bros. Movie', it's hard to overstate how lowered our expectations were. For one, the first attempt at making a 'Super Mario Bros.' movie all the way back in the early '90s resulted in the hardened belief that video games could never be adapted to movies. It didn't help, naturally, that the special effects weren't at a point where it could work - but it also didn't help that you had Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo allegedly drunk as lords on set most of the time.

Then there's the voice cast assembled here. Charles Martinet has voiced Super Mario since 1990, and many elder millennials believed he should have been cast in the voice role as Mario. If you want to be completely soulless about it, 'The Super Mario Bros. Movie' represents a massive investment by both Nintendo, Universal and Illumination and name-recognition actors simply must be drafted in to replace the existing talent. Still, there's enough of their personality rolled into the performance that it kind of makes sense. Seth Rogen and Fred Armisen, for example, sound like they're having a ball voicing Donkey Kong and Cranky Kong, with Cranky Kong almost sounding like Larry David at points. Jack Black channels heavy metal lead singers to make Bowser a reality, while Charlie Day's rattled timbre works perfectly as a petrified Luigi.

'The Super Mario Bros. Movie' directors Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic made their name creating 'Teen Titans Go!', an anarchic slice of superhero comedy animation that regularly featured self-parodying moments of humour, and goofball nihilism along the way. Here, you get the sense that some of the sharper edges have been sanded down and hemmed in to fit with a broader audience. It doesn't have any kind of sarcastic edge to it, but there are one or two setpieces that'll have adults chuckling, while most of it is big, loud and colourful family fun. Indeed, the script by Matthew Fogel leaves nothing to chance here. It's a straight-up reunion story, with Mario and Luigi separated as they enter the Mushroom Kingdom and both of them trying to find their way back - exactly the kind of family-friendly message you'd expect from something like this.

Nothing about 'The Super Mario Bros. Movie' is particularly groundbreaking, and there's a kind of placid safety in how straightforward it is. For elder millennials bringing their kids who spent hours on 'Super Mario Bros. 3' trying to find the Warp Whistle and so on, they'll clock more than a few references along the way. Kids watching it will enjoy the slapstick comedy and the spectacle of it all. In the end, that's what 'The Super Mario Bros. Movie' is aimed at and truly is - an amusing adventure for kids aged 8 and those aged 8 in the '80s.