The Super Mario Bros. Movie (2023) ☆☆(2/4): Bland and uninspired to say the least

I report to you now that animation film “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” is not as horrible as I feared, but, alas, that is the only good thing I can possibly say about it. To be frank with you, I did not have much interest in Nintendo’s Mario video game franchise even when I was young and wild, but I understand how it has been so popular since it came out in the 1980s, so I actually kept my mind open a bit before watching the film itself. Unfortunately, the overall result is so bland and inspired to say the least that I could only have a bit of amusement from its few comic saving graces.

One of the biggest problems in the film is that it spends more of than its rather short running time (92 minutes) on building its fantasy world without much fun or style. Sure, it is nice to see that fantasy world of the Mario video game franchise recreated on the screen via computer animation, but the film lacks any sense of wit or intelligence even compared to that old TV animation series based on the Mario video game franchise. At that time when I watched that TV animation series on a foreign satellite channel, I was too young to understand English, but I had some fun with it as far as I remember, and it was certainly much better than that disastrous live-action version film made in 1993 (Even I could discern that it was really, really, really awful, despite being no more than 10 years old, by the way).

In case of our struggling Brooklyn plumbers Mario (voiced by Chris Pratt) and Luigi (voiced by Charlie Day), they do not show much personality beyond what we have been familiar with for many years. While the film makes a fun on their Italian American background via their ridiculously heavy-handed commercial, the brief laugh from that moment is quickly evaporated mainly because the performers behind their characters are curiously bland and colorless in their voice acting. While Chris Pratt, who is no stranger to comedy, is surprisingly much less spirited that usual, Charlie Day, who can be quite hilariously manic and if that is necessary, seems to be content with merely earning his paycheck, and, to make matters worse, there is not much chemistry between these two usually reliable comedy veterans.

Anyway, let’s talk a bit about the nearly barebone plot of the screenplay by Matthew Fogel. When an inexplicable big plumbing problem happens in the middle of Brooklyn during one evening, Mario and Luigi quickly go to the spot for proving and promoting their worth, but, what do you know, they accidentally come across a magical portal while trying to fix that plumbing problem. They soon get themselves sucked into that portal, and, after getting separated from Luigi, Mario finds himself landing on the Mushroom Kingdom led by Princess Peach (voiced by Anya Taylor-Joy).

For finding and saving Luigi, Mario goes to the palace where Princess Peach lives, and he comes to learn that Luigi was sent to a dark and barren region belonging to an evil turtle king named Bowser (voiced by Jack Black). Besides saving Luigi from Bowser, Mario must stop Bowser before Bowser conquers the Mushroom Kingdom and then tries to marry, yes, Princess Peach, so, along with Prince Peach and a mushroom guy named Toad (voiced by Keegan-Michael Key), he goes to the Jungle Kingdom for getting some military support from its gorilla king and his son.

What follows next is a string of action sequences packed with various stuffs to be recognized by the fans of the Mario video game franchise, but these action sequences mostly feel rather pedestrian on the whole. While often boosted by Brian Tyler’s overachieving score which frequently quotes the theme song of the Mario video game franchise as required, these action sequences are inherently deficient without any genuine sense of fun or entertainment, and you may want to play your Mario video game instead of enduring this dull and tedious mediocrity.

In case of comedy, the movie continues to underwhelm us in more than once. As the main villain character of the film, Jack Black surely has several moments to chew, but, like Day or Pratt, he does not seem to have much fun with his voice acting, and that deliberately horrible torch song performed by him in the middle of the film just sounds merely atrocious with generating much laugh for us. As a matter of fact, I winced more when it was performed again in the middle of the end credits.

At least, some other notable voice performers in the film manage to distinguish themselves a bit more in comparison, though they are also limited by their cardboard supporting roles. While Anya Taylor-Joy brings some pluck to her character, Keegan-Michael Key is frequently amusing in his deft delivery of silly comic lines, and the same thing can be said about Seth Rogen, who manages to energize the middle act of the film to some degree as the aggressively arrogant son of the ruler of the Jungle Kingdom.

In conclusion, “The Super Mario Bros. Movie”, which is directed by Aaron Horvth and Michael Jelenic, does not reach to the bottom represented by that 1993 live-action film version, but it ends up being more or less than a pointless teaser for whatever will come next in the future. Considering that it has had a considerable box office success since it was released in US a few weeks ago, I am sure that there will probably be a couple of sequels at least, and I can only wish that there will be some improvement in those possible sequels in the future. That will not be that difficult in my humble opinion, but who knows?

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