Sexuality/Nudity No Objection
Vulgarity No Objection
Anti-Catholic Philosophy No Objection
The Super Mario Bros. Movie is not the deepest movie ever made. But it sets out what it intends to do: give you a fun time at the movies.
The film is the first step into theatrical animation that Nintendo is taking. Understanding the importance of their intellectual property, they decided to play it very safe, which was probably a smart move.
The story is very straightforward: Mario (Chris Pratt) and his brother Luigi (Charlie Day) are plumbers struggling with their new business in Brooklyn. However, they get transported by a magical pipe to another dimension and are separated. Mario lands in the Mushroom Kingdom and Luigi is taken prisoner by Bowser (Jack Black), the evil king of the Koopas, who has just acquired the power of the magic star. With this he plans to invade the Mushroom Kingdom. Because of this Princess Peach (Anya Taylor-Joy) must make an alliance with the Jungle Kingdom and enlist Mario's help in defeating Bowser. Together, along with Toad (Keegan-Michael Key) and eventually Donkey Kong himself (Set Rogen), they set out to face their enemy once and for all.
As I mentioned, this is not a story with a lot of depth. The golden age of PIXAR has spoiled me a bit with children's films that also touch on some level of universal profundity like Up and Toy Story 3. TSMBM doesn't try to match this level of thematic richness. Instead, the film makers focus on trying to emulate the feeling you get from playing a Super Mario game: pure fun.
I can still remember sitting in front my TV one Christmas night, playing Super Mario Bros. our brand new Nintendo until the wee hours of the morning and for dozens of hours after that. The plot of the game really didn't make much of a difference. What mattered was that despite all the frustration, I was having fun.
TSMBM is like that, without all the stress of having to avoid falling off the edge of a cliff. The film makers pack this movie to hilt with Easter eggs from all over the Nintendo universe from Punch Out to Kid Icarus. And throughout the movie, the visuals evoke some of the best moments from the Mario Games including Mario Kart, Smash Bros., Donkey Kong Country, etc. In this way, the movie not only is a treat for current Mario fans, but for us old-timers who grew up with original games. All the while, the script churns out several jokes per minute so that if one does not land, another one will come along that might.
Speaking of the visuals, the movie absolutely nails the aesthetic of Mario's world and makes it a cute and delightful place to visit. Even the harsher environments carry with them an attraction. The designs are flawlessly interpreted for the big screen. The bright and bold color patterns make for a vibrant visual experience. Before the movie came out, there was a lot of chatter about how Pratt did not sound like the Mario from the game. The movie was able to have a few moments of the traditional sounding Mario as well as the accent of the Brooklyn native similar to the old live-action bits from the kid's TV show.
Pratt does a fantastic job with his voice acting. He knows just how to turn a comic phrase and when to crank up the sincerity. Jack Black chews up the scenery with his lines. It worked for me, but if you are someone who does not care for Jack Black, then this may be a little bit of a turn off. But he completely commits to the role. His silly and heart-felt ballad "Peaches," had me laughing out loud in the theater.
Thematically, the movie is primarily about the power of believing in yourself. Mario is a dreamer and everyone tells him that he is destined for less. Mario is determined to be more than he is. And this spirit of determination, of never giving up, is a great message for kids.
Once again I emphasize that this is a kid's movie. That doesn't meant that can't also be sophisticated and thematically rich. But what it does mean is that the movie should never lose sight of who its primary audience is. Like the Minions movies, TSMBM is silly in the way that reaches young children. And it is wonderfully refreshing to have a movie that does not try to sneak more mature themes into content meant for youngsters, as we found in recent Disney offerings like Baymax, Lightyear, and Strange World. Part of the great power of The Super Mario Bros. Movie is the innocence in which it presents its story so as not to affect the innocence of its audience.
Nintendo has a monster hit on their hands with The Super Mario Bros. Movie. They have cracked the code for success in area of big-budget animation: create a fun and family-friendly experience for everyone to enjoy.