Why The Super Mario Bros. Movie is barely a movie


Released on Wednesday, April 5th, 2023, The Super Mario Bros. Movie has made its way to audiences with a rather mixed reaction. While some have found it to be rather refreshing and fun, others expressed frustration over issues with the film’s quality. While I did undoubtedly enjoy The Super Mario Bros. Movie, many of its core issues did eventually begin to bother me as it continued.

Throughout most of its runtime, the film feels as though it is engineered to exist within the larger brand surrounding it, taking very few risks and doing everything it can to respect established cannon where applicable. While some things do benefit from the brand safety – locations throughout the film are incredibly vibrant and fantastical, directly comparable to their video game counterparts – easily the biggest victims of this are the film’s characters. Here, most are given only the most basic of identities and traits to match their otherwise incredibly simple video game counterparts, at the cost of any conflict more complicated than the simple motivations found within most games within the Mario franchise; Mario is heroic, Luigi is scared,
Peach is a leader, and Bowser is, well… Bowser is Jack Black.

This would not be a problem if the film around the brand identity was still well made. In 2014, the reaction to another similar picture, The Lego Movie, was far more overwhelmingly positive. Where the Lego Movie overwhelmingly succeeded, The Super Mario Bros. Movie failed. This difference lies in the fact that The Lego Movie was a tightly paced, brilliantly written narrative that burst with creative ideas, humor, and passion. Though some of this may be able to be said about the film, many of these features are left rather lacking in The Super Mario Bros. Movie.

Easily the biggest two issues with the film are its pacing and writing. On the note of pacing, much of the film moves incredibly rapidly. Scenes seem to last for thirty seconds to a minute each, and there are few to no moments throughout the film where any set piece or moment gets the breathing room it really needs. Along with this is the general writing of the film. Even while its other elements excel, the film writing consistently feels as if it is targeted at kids and kids alone, with little to no depth for an older viewer. This leads to a script that feels rather amateurish, with dialogue that is oftentimes more annoying than it is endearing.

The film’s greatest strength is almost certainly in its visuals and animation. Here, the film is able to shine brightly with colorful landscapes, expressive characters, and animation that is both visually appealing and well-executed on a technical level. In this, it is rather evident that a lot of hard work and genuine artistry was put together for this film, even if in the end it can feel as if it is a little less than the sum of its parts.

In all, I would say that my general impression of The Super Mario Bros. Movie was that it was an entertaining if shallow ride that while not the best in its genre, or even really compelling enough to warrant a re-watch, offered enough thrills to justify at least a single viewing. There will most certainly be a sequel.