The Super Mario Bros. Movie is directed by Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic, and it controversially stars Chris Pratt as the voice of Mario, Charlie Day voices Luigi, and Anya Taylor-Joy plays Princess Peach. The titular Brooklyn plumbers get sucked into a different world where Bowser (Jack Black) is trying to marry Princess Peach, and if he doesn’t get his way, he is going to destroy Peach’s kingdom.
The Super Mario Bros. Movie is not a movie. That is to say that the film is not a cohesive story, there are no vibrant characters who develop or change, and there is not a plot as much as there is a collection of loud, colorful action set pieces; The Super Mario Bros. Movie is not a movie in the sense that it is not a piece of art that exists on its own. Rather, it is an extension of a corporate branding and intellectual property (IP). It is a collection of Easter eggs, as there are so many nods to the games and video game history (a character plays an arcade game called Jump Man, which was the original title for The Super Mario Bros.). It is essentially a prong in a larger strategy by a multimedia corporation that seeks to sell video games and popularize their IP. This can be said of many other movies in which the line between art and commerce blurs to opacity, but it’s just so blatant and obvious in The Super Mario Bros. [Not a] Movie.
The film is aimed at fans of Nintendo products, and because the film is short, colorful, and active, it might work for young kids, but a general audience will find it trite and scattered. It is mostly a bunch of noise and colors, which might keep the young ones to distracted, but it doesn’t work in terms of all of the criteria that we would normally apply to a film.
One positive element is how the film switches gender expectations. As they get sucked into the other world, Mario and Luigi are separated, and for most the film’s runtime, Luigi works as the “damsel in distress” while Princess Peach carries many of the film’s fighting and action sequences. It is a clever reversal that stood as one of the few good creative choices in an otherwise bankrupt production.
The Super Mario Bros. [Not a] Movie fails on every level except the most basic. It’s a film that aims low and misses, but its evaluation will not come in the form of critics’ reviews or even box office receipts; it will be evaluated based on terms like “corporate synergy” and “market penetration” and most importantly, Nintendo’s stock price.