The Super Mario Bros Movie (2023) — Light’s on but no one’s home

“Mama mia!”

Justin’s rating: I might’ve just liked the soundtrack more, to be honest

Justin’s review: When you honestly think about it, Super Mario Bros. was always a cartoon — just one that you played. It was designed to look like an abstract, goofy trip through this imaginary kingdom stocked with colorful and expressive characters. Mushrooms made you big, flowers made you a pyromaniac, and tails made you fly. Nothing made logical sense, but Shigeru Miyamoto and crew fashioned together a nonsensical world that ended up solidifying into a pop culture staple.

So it’s really not that much of a leap to take the game and, you know, turn it back into a cartoon. After all, it was done back in the ’80s and ’90s with the various TV shows — and no viewers were complaining about wonky logic and why all these turtles seemed so hellbent on killing everyone.

Now in the Grand Year of our Koopa 2023, The Super Mario Bros. Movie emerged to fully realize the dream of taking a silly game premise and wrapping the loosest of all plots around it.

Headstrong Mario (Chris Pratt) and his scaredy-cat brother Luigi (Charlie Day) accidentally fall into some pipes and end up in a video game realm where fat turtle Bowser (Jack Black) is trying to take over everything in a noble attempt to woo Princess Peach (human barbie doll Anya Taylor-Joy). The good guys try to stop Bowser’s army, and… that’s the beginning, middle, and end of the story.

With incredibly bright colors and a story so simple that you know it was focus group tested with teething toddlers, you might ask yourself it there’s anything in The Super Mario Bros. Movie for functional adults. Listen, it’s passably entertaining. I took my daughter to see it on her birthday, and she had a great time and my brain wasn’t that starved for entertainment. But I wasn’t exactly walking away with a deep appreciation for the Looney Tunes-level wit. It’s simple. It’s colors. It’s probably going to be the best-selling animated movie of all time.

What helped to keep me from gnawing on the theater armrest was the fact that this is also Super Mario Bros.: The Fanservice. Perhaps in an attempt to apologize for everything left out of the still-kind-of-awesome 1993 Super Mario Bros., this version throws a constant stream of callbacks from the game universe so that those in the know might snap their fingers and say, “I get that reference!”

We’ve got kart racing and the blue shell. There’s the D.K. rap (the best rap song that humanity has yet produced). Signs that say “Level 1-2.” All the power-ups. Luigi being scared in a haunted locale. The original “Jumpman” playing a Donkey Kong arcade. “The princess is in another castle.” And so on.

It’s good for a one-time nostalgia tour for the Super Mario faithful, but this is a oil slick of a movie: beautiful and rainbow-y to behold, but not that deep of a film.

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