Movie Review: The Super Mario Bros. Movie (Horvath and Jelenic, 2023)

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Movie: The Super Mario Bros. Movie

Production Companies: Universal Pictures, Illumination, Nintendo Pictures

Directors: Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic

Producers: Chris Meledandri, Shigeru Miyamoto

Scriptwriter: Matthew Fogel

Main Cast: Chris Pratt, Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Day, Jack Black, Keegan Michael-Key, Seth Rogen, Fred Armisen

Release Date: April 5th 2023

Running Time: 92 minutes

Certificate: PG


Well, it’s not just a Mario, it’s an entire cinematic universe now. This isn’t shocking given the fact the Super Mario Bros. Movie has crossed the $900 million barrier. And also it deserves credit for not only being a great nostalgic Mario film. Also that it’s the first great film Illumination has produced since its inception. Not that this should be a surprise…. Anyway, with the film powering to the $1 billion mark what better time to review the Super Mario Bros. film finally? So, without further ado, let’s get into my review of the film.


The Super Mario Bros. follows the titular brothers, Mario (Pratt) and Luigi (Day), as they are pulled through a warp pipe to the Mushroom Kingdom. Unfortunately for Luigi, he is pulled into the Darklands ruled by the tyrannical, love sick Koopa offender, Bowser (Black). Naturally, Bowser has designs to rule the Mushroom Kingdom with Princess Peach (Taylor-Joy) as a power couple. Shockingly, Peach has no interest in marrying the much older Koopa King. So she recruits Mario and Toad (Michael-Key) to get Donkey Kong (Rogen) to join their army against Bowser. But in the end it comes down to whether the Mario Bros. can finally make people believe in them to defeat a geriatric turtle offender to restore order to the Mushroom Kingdom. So, with the synopsis out of the way let’s get into the analysis portion of my review now.


Jack Black’s Performance in The Super Mario Bros. Movie

To begin my analysis of The Super Mario Bros. I’m going to start with the elephant in the room: Jack Black’s performance as Bowser. Now firstly I don’t know that there’s been an actor in recent history to live the role of his character. Also, he’s great as Bowser because it’s just so full on, you almost can’t help but admire it. Case in point, *that* song and yes you all know the one. While it is slightly jarring with the film’s tone, it’s too in your face not to appreciate in some way. Whether it’s the screeching vocals, the visuals of Bowser playing a piano or the picture of Peach just on the edge of the piano, they all combine to make an admittedly mental yet hilarious scene.

Also, the opening scene where the Penguins attempt to keep the Super Star from Bowser is fantastic. Here, the Penguins try to stop Bowser by launching snowballs at him only for Bowser to burn their castle down. These are essentially the two sides of Jack Black’s performance as Bowser: the love sick bachelor offender and the warlord who plans to burn the Mushroom Kingdom. Also, the fact Jack Black makes Bowser so insecure about his ability to win Peach’s heart just adds another layer of hilarity to his performance. So, overall it’s a fun performance from Jack Black. Oh, and if you’re wondering why I’ve been making jokes about Bowser being an offender just look up his and Peach’s ages and you’ll see.

Tone in The Super Mario Bros. Movie 

Continuing my review of The Super Mario Bros Movie, I’m going to discuss the film’s tone and why it’s quite jarring at points. So, as I’ve hinted above in regards to Jack Black’s performance, there’s two very distinct sides to the film. These are the darker Bowser conquest side and the happy and whimsical Mario, Peach and Toad adventure. And yes, while there’s the constant threat of Bowser looming over Peach, it still feels jarring when the film cuts between Luigi being locked in Bowser’s Castle over a pit of lava to Mario fighting Donkey Kong in a vibrant upbeat comedic scene.

Arguably, this can take you out of the film as it constantly flips. Like at one moment it’ll be Bowser professing his love to Peach then moving to him torturing Luigi. As mentioned above, it can take you out of the film if the tone is changing in back to back scenes. This does ruin the film slightly, even if it feels like I’m yelling at a cloud right now. There are more tonal shifts like the opening to the Rainbow Road scene to Bowser’s goons attacking, though that one is less egregious.

Narrative in The Super Mario Bros Movie

Moreover, I’m going to continue my analysis of The Super Mario Bros Movie by discussing the film’s narrative. Now, while I understand it’s marketed towards kids, it also draws in fans of the Mario games so it’s entirely fair to call out its narrative and screenplay for not being that great. Also, at points it arguably makes no sense. Case in point, the convenience of having Mario and Luigi being split up in the warp pipe. This feels like it’s done more for the sake of the plot than anything else.

Also, the fact Cranky Kong immediately turns down helping Peach out against Bowser doesn’t make much sense. This is because if the Mushroom Kingdom lost then Bowser would just attack the Kongs. Or the aforementioned tonal shifts which give the film’s narrative a really janky feeling of two films which were stitched together to make one. Again, this disrupts the narrative flow so in spite of the fact this is Illumiantion’s best film it can’t escape the usual Illumination narrative problems. 

Animation in The Super Mario Bros Movie

To conclude my analysis of The Super Mario Bros Movie, I’m going to discuss the film’s animation style. And frankly, it’s the best part of the film beyond the sheer nostalgia you’ll get if you’ve ever played any Mario game. For an example of the great animation, just look at how the Mushroom Kingdom and the rest of the world looks. Seeing Mario, Toad and Peach wander through the Mushroom Kingdom just feels so nostalgic and seeing this world come to life in great animation genuinely gives a feeling that video game films often fail to replicate. Also, another example of the animation is the scene of Mario completing the obstacle course.

This is all happening while I Need a Hero is playing which is phenomenal. This makes the audience feel like you’re Mario trying to complete the course. This is further reinforced by the fact Mario has to constantly restart the course in hilarious fashion. I mean I can just gush over the film’s animation, like in the Rainbow Road scene which brings back bad feelings after seeing *that* blue shell coming after Donkey Kong and Mario. Honestly, annoyingly good stuff from Illumination here.


To summarise The Super Mario Bros Movie, this is a fun nostalgic blast for fans of Mario and the games but lacks a lot in the story and feels tonally all over the place. However, what it lacks in story and tone it makes up for in fun performances, like Jack Black, and some very nice animation. All I’m saying is probably expect the Nintendo Cinematic Universe to commence soon…

Overall Rating: 7/10 – Respectable

Target Audience: 10+

Content Warning: Mild Violence and Gore, Mild Frightening and Intense Scenes

Recommendation: Yes