Nintendo has been stingy with their movie rights, and who can blame them? In 1993, a live-action Super Mario Bros. movie was unleashed upon the world and it was so weird and so bad that it almost collapsed the cosmos. Seriously. I’m not exaggerating. It’s one of the weirdest movies I’ve ever seen and I watch a lot of movies. But finally, Nintendo tries again–this time in cartoon form, and…
They nailed it. This one doesn’t get weird. It sticks to the games, pays respect to the properties it represents, and brings the viewer along for a good time. It’s not going to blow you away. It doesn’t reinvent a genre. It’s downright formulaic, if we’re being honest. But it’s also a cartoon, aimed more towards kids than adults, but it remains just cheeky enough to keep everyone engaged for its admirably short runtime.
If you’re worried about the voice cast, don’t be. Chris Pratt does just fine with Mario. He doesn’t do the over-the-top (probably slightly racist) version of Mario from the games, but none of us actually want to listen to that for 90 minutes. The movie quickly pays its respects to that silly voice and then lets Mario be a dude from New York as he should be. The rest of that cast didn’t get the same scrutiny as Pratt, but they all do a perfectly fine job, with Jack Black standing out as the most entertaining of the bunch.
You also get Donkey Kong along for the adventure, which is fitting since Mario wouldn’t be a thing without him. For kids who grew up with the Super Nintendo, all of the Donkey Kong Country cameos and references will be appreciated. Seth Rogen doesn’t try to be anyone but himself in the role, but the dynamic between him and Mario is hilarious and could easily be the basis for its own movie.
There’s not a lot to say about such a short, simple movie. It’s not groundbreaking, but it does scratch the right nostalgia itch. For the Nintendo generation, it’s a no brainer. For the Nintendo generation that also has kids in the right age range, it’s a must-watch.
Should you watch it? If you grew up playing some version of Super Mario Bros, definitely.
Should you take your kids? It’s a perfect kids movie.
What you should watch first: You’d probably be less enthralled if you’ve never played a Mario game.