Reviewed by: Alexander Malsan
Bravery, courage, sacrifice
Teamwork to stand up against evil
Trying a new career, despite the risks
Dealing with bullies
Good conquering evil
Rulers who focus on conquering other lands
Chris Pratt … Mario (voice)
Charlie Day … Luigi (voice)
Anya Taylor-Joy … Princess Peach (voice), ruler of the Mushroom Kingdom, and Mario’s guide, mentor, and love interest
Seth Rogen … Donkey Kong (voice)
Jack Black … Bowser, a.k.a. King Koopa (voice), a monstrous, fire-breathing anthropomorphic turtle and the king of the Koopas, who rules the Dark Lands, steals the powerful Super Star, and plots to destroy the Mushroom Kingdom
Fred Armisen … Cranky Kong (voice), Donkey Kong’s father, who rules the Jungle Kingdom and leads the Kong Army
Keegan-Michael Key … Toad (voice)
Kevin Michael Richardson … Kamek (voice), a Koopa sorcerer and Bowser’s advisor and informant
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Somewhere in an enchanted world, the dreaded King Bowser (Jack Black) and his army of Kooplas of the Dark Lands, are on the march, destroying everyone and everything in their path in search of a golden star. With this star Bowser will have the ultimate power and be virtually invincible, becoming the ruler of all worlds. All that’s left is to march on the Mushroom Kingdom, led by the benevolent Princess Peach (Anya Taylor-Joy).
In the real world, however, we meet up with Mario (Chris Pratt) and Luigi, two brothers who have quit the construction industry to start up their own plumbing business, The Super Mario Brothers. There’s just one problem though: they haven’t had much luck with the business. On top of that, their family really isn’t that supportive of their dream. As Mario’s parents point out, they gave up a good solid job to start something that “might” be successful.
One day, during a city-wide water main break, the boys head underground into the sewers to try and fix the situation. Assessing the situation, they just happen to stumble upon a mysterious green pipe that sucks them into a mysterious universe. Both Mario and Luigi are separated: Luigi is transported to the Dark Lands, ruled by Bowser, and Mario to the Mushroom Kingdom.
Mario enlists the assistance of Princess Peach and Toad (the Princess’ assistant) to help him find Luigi, with one catch: Mario needs to assist Peach in assembling the great gorilla army to help defend the Mushroom kingdom from the upcoming attack by Bowser and the Kooplas.
As Mario would say, “Let’s a-go.”
Do you remember the first video game you played? Was it at home, on a console, or at the arcade at the mall? I can. In fact (without giving my age away), the first video game I played was the “Super Mario Brothers” on the Super Nintendo. I can remember the feel of the controller, putting the cartridge in, hearing the ding of the game, pressing start and guiding Mario through each level, bouncing on mushrooms, grabbing coins, and going down the castle flag pole at the end.
“The Super Mario Brothers Movie” brings with it all the imagination, the fun and excitement that those who have grown up playing both the original and the numerous additional games have come to enjoy (“Super Mario 2,” “Super Mario 3,”“ Super Mario Galaxy,” etc.). There are so many “Easter Eggs” (or references to past films) that many, like myself, will smile and point out. This can be both to the films credit AND to its detriment…
One of the main issues is that the film tries to be everything, everywhere, all at once, and that can genuinely be confusing. There are missing pieces, and the pacing is so incredibly fast (faster than a game of “Mario Kart”), that I was anxiously and furiously jotting down notes on the back of my clipboard as the film progressed. Additionally, with regards to the “Easter Eggs,” I feel like the plot itself was an afterthought to the filmmakers main intention which was, “Let’s see how many Mario Brothers references we can throw in in 90 minutes.”
Now, a reviewer from IGN stated quite boldly a few days ago, “Remember everyone, this is a children’s movie!”. Yes, of course it is. The children are going to be entertained, certainly, as the film starts with energy and never lets off the gas pedal (sorry another Mario Kart reference. I’ll stop ha ha). It’s okay, however, to stop and let the kids take in the special moments of the film though (e.g., the trips through the various other lands that aren’t as essential to the film).
I will, however, praise the animation. Once again, Illumination is providing some stiff competition against Pixar and Dreamworks. The scenes are beautifully canvased, color-wise, in the most perfect shades and hues, and the attention to detail is quite nice, particularly in the Mushroom Kingdom. Likewise, I commend some of the performances. One in particular that surprised me was Anya-Taylor Joy’s Princess Peach. She really played the part well.
VIOLENCE: Most of the violence in the film is animated and light in nature. In one scene Bowser destroys an ice castle with his fire breath. A wizard tosses some penguins around (no one is seriously hurt). A dog is saved from almost falling out a window. A dog chases after Mario and Luigi in one scene. Skeleton Koopas rise from the ground and attack Luigi. Mario gets hit multiple times as he attempts an obstacle course (no serious injuries and again, slap-stick). A Koopa’s skin is burned off (not graphic). Someone has their fingers slammed by a piano cover.
Donkey Kong punches Mario multiple times in a fight sequence, and Mario knocks him unconscious with a couple hits. There is an epic Mario Kart race where we witness car chases and some peril and car crashes. Characters fall into some water. A character uses phrases like “fresh meat for the grinder.” Another states something about a “ritual sacrifice.” Two people are eaten by an eel and burped out. A character gets tossed around.
LANGUAGE: “Idiot” (1), “Hell-hound” (1), “Stupid,” “You’re a joke,” (1), “Shut-up” (1)
SEXUAL CONTENT: Bowser thinks Peach is attractive and has a thing for her and so does Mario. Donkey Kong flexes his muscles while trying to impress the crowd at the beginning of the show.
DRUGS: Mushrooms that characters eat give special power-ups, like making them bigger, smaller, and giving different abilities (like becoming a cat).
Mario and Luigi back on Earth are considered the “little guys” and various characters, including their own family, are telling them to give up on their fantasies and that they shouldn’t aim so high in life because it will just ultimately lead to failure.
Thankfully, God is not like this family. He can use anyone at any time for anything. In fact, the Bible states that God has predestined according to His purpose, which means we have been chosen by Him, specifically, to do great things in His name. Imagine being hand selected by the Creator of the entire universe! What an honor and a privilege!
“For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.” —Romans 8:29-30
Jesus also states…
“You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.” —John 15:16
“But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.” —2 Thessalonians 2:13
So never count yourself out! God is all-knowing, all-powerful and also all-loving. Because God is who He is, He chose us to be a part of his family, to be with Him in holy fellowship and to bear witness to others. As the Bible states…
“For many are called, but few are chosen.” —Matthew 22:14
UNIVERSALISM—Will ALL mankind eventually be saved? Answer
Can a saved person become lost? Answer
How can I be sure of my salvation? Answer
What is “the unpardonable sin”? How does sin become “unforgivable”? Answer
Video games have come a very long way in the past 50 years. Once upon a time, many thought the game “Pong” was the greatest game that was ever created, but soon that faded. One that has stood the test of time, though, has been the Mario Bros. games, with the first one released in 1983 for the Atari.
For me, attending “The Super Mario Brothers Movie” was like sitting down and playing the first Mario Bros. game, or in my case “The Super Mario Bros.” game. You’re going to sit down, get comfortable and not have a care in the world which is fine, as the “Super Mario Brothers” film, for all intents and purposes, is a fairly clean (and I do emphasize FAIRLY) film as far as children’s films are concerned (let’s be honest, there’s not a lot of clean newer films out there for children.
Sure, there’s some violence in the film, but most of it is cartoonish, or brief, or adventure-based and nothing overly graphic and that’s probably the worst, content-wise, to deal with. There is, however, some positive messaging about bravery, courage, teamwork, and brotherhood that could lend itself to some nice family discussions. In short, this is a film I can safely recommend to older children, teens and adults of all ages. Caution for young kids due to violence.
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.