The Super Mario Bros. Movie – Film review by Andrea Carnevali

The Super Mario Bros. Movie ⭐️⭐️ ½ – Review by Andrea Carnevali

The Super Mario Bros. journey through the Mushroom Kingdom and with the help of Princess Peach, Mario gets ready to square off against the all-powerful Bowser to stop his plans from conquering the world. On in cinemas now, including Chiswick Cinema.

Here’s another one of those films which serves as an example of the divide that exists between the public and the critics and a proof that they both seem to live in parallel universes.

The latest adaptation of the iconic videogame character from Nintendo (the chubby moustached plumber from Brooklyn with the cheesiest Italian accent on the planet) comes 30 years after the embarrassingly bad adaptation starring Bob Hoskins, John Leguizamo and Dennis Hopper.

Ironically the original film from 1993 was universally panned for many of the same reasons why this has been loved by audiences today (as I am writing this, it is the first film of 2023 to have crossed the 1 billion dollar mark). Clearly modern sensitivities have changed through the decades: being a nerd is now seen as cool, video game geeks rule the world and their preferences are dictating the choice of what is produced on screen. Whether we like it or not, this is the state of affairs today.

The film has clearly been made with that kind of audience in mind. There are plenty of references (or Easter eggs, as they like to call them) and an enhanced sense of nostalgia to appeal to the older demographic, those who were fans of the original game, but enough slapstick and action to draw in the younger crowds.

Avoiding some of the pitfalls of the previous films which tried to bring to life the characters which are cartoony at best, this one, wisely, sticks to animation. As for the voice ‘talent’, it’s clear that Jack Black, Anya Taylor-Joy, and Chris Pratt as Mario, have been cast for their names rather than what they could bring to the table, and while nobody is really bad, I didn’t think anyone stood out particularly or made their character memorable in any way.

On the plus side, it is bright, energetic, at times fun, but I couldn’t help seeing how completely manufactured. Carefully and cynically engineered around that feeling of nostalgia for the original video games (Mario running along a track full of two-dimensional obstacles or driving wildly on a frantic kart chase and so on).

And you know what? It almost worked, or at least, the first half of the film did. However as the madness grew and it all got more and more far-fetched, it also started to feel less and less rooted in an anything that made any sense whatsoever. A crazy mishmash of loud and deranged plot points, hopelessly ticking boxes and stringing more-or-less together a series of tributes to the videogame itself and the memories one might have of them, whether it made sense for the ‘story’ of not.

I know you may argue that nobody goes to see a film called Mario Bros the Movie for character development or to gain a deep insight into the life of plumbers. But even slapstick action sequences and fantastic cliff-hangers should stick to their own rules however fantastical there may be.

It felt like an assault on the senses and not in a good way…  in fact, mostly to my ears!

There are no two ways about it: this was mostly garbage. I saw it a couple of weeks ago and I have already forgotten what it was about.

Yes, it may be enough to keep very young children entertained, but surely children deserve so much more than this? At least I know my son does, even though coming out of the cinema he suggested I should give it a 4 star review. I’m sorry, but in my heart of heart, I just can’t.

I know it is possible to make something clever, which can appeal both to children and adults. There are plenty of examples in the history of cinema (The Wizard of Oz, or The Lion King, or E.T. or My Neighbor Totoro, just to mention at few). Why should we compromise just for the sake of keeping our child still for the duration of a film?

Mario Bros the Movie is out in cinemas now.

Andrea Carnevali is a Bafta winning film maker who lives in Chiswick, and a co-creator of the Chiswick In Film festival.

See all Andrea’s film reviews here: Film reviews by Andrea Carnevali

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