Review of “The Super Mario Bros. Movie”: This faithful adaptation frequently resembles a cutscene.

The latest animated movie, starring Chris Pratt, Charlie Day, Anya Taylor-Joy, Jack Black, and others, faithfully captures the appearance and atmosphere of Nintendo’s video games.

Since Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo portrayed Mario and Luigi in the 1993 film “Super Mario Bros.,” both movies and video games have evolved significantly. Back then, the adaptation approach was quite loose, aiming to create an original story for a different medium with some familiar names and characters from the games. However, modern audiences now anticipate more faithful translations from games to film. Consequently, the new “Super Mario Bros. Movie” closely resembles Nintendo’s iconic games, resulting in a film experience that often resembles an extended cutscene.

Directors Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic, known for “Teen Titans Go! To The Movies,” helm the new animated feature, which kicks off with twin siblings Mario (voiced by Chris Pratt) and Luigi (voiced by Charlie Day) collaborating as plumbers in a Brooklyn resembling our own. Their mundane existence takes a fantastical turn when they are whisked away to another dimension. Here, the tyrant Bowser (voiced by Jack Black) is launching an assault on the Mushroom Kingdom, governed by Princess Peach (voiced by Anya Taylor-Joy). While Luigi is captured by Bowser’s forces, Mario joins forces with Peach and her loyal Toads in a bid to organize a resistance against the oppressive ruler.

In a departure from traditional portrayals, The Super Mario Bros. Movie presents its iconic characters with modern twists. Princess Peach, instead of being a helpless damsel, emerges as a skilled and formidable warrior-ruler who outshines the male characters with her capabilities. Unlike the conventional narrative, where she needs rescuing, Peach’s primary objective is to safeguard her mushroom-headed subjects from Bowser’s tyranny, while Mario’s focus is on rescuing his brother. Meanwhile, Donkey Kong (voiced by Seth Rogen) impresses the colosseum crowd with his physical prowess but craves validation from his royal father, resembling Succession’s Kendall Roy in a red tie.

In contrast to his usual menacing portrayal, Bowser is depicted as a lovesick playground bully who expresses his unrequited affection for the princess by invading her kingdom. Jack Black’s performance stands out in the voice cast, drawing on his experience from the Kung Fu Panda franchise. Bowser’s numerous parody songs, expressing his love for Peach, effectively utilize Black’s distinctive vocal talents, reminiscent of his work with Tenacious D.

The movie incorporates elements not only from classic Super Mario games but also from other titles like Super Smash Bros. and Mario Kart. When Peach and Mario prepare to confront Bowser, they engage in gameplay reminiscent of traditional Super Mario adventures: running across pipes, collecting power-up mushrooms, and more. Peach’s portrayal draws from modern archetypes of strong female protagonists, fitting for those familiar with her abilities in games like Super Smash Bros., where she can hold her own against formidable opponents like Bowser and Donkey Kong.

Moreover, the film pays homage to Mario Kart in a more explicit manner. The heroes’ race against Bowser’s Koopas down Rainbow Road is a notable reference, adding to the movie’s amusing nods to pop culture, akin to the coconut pirates sequence from Moana and other “kids’ movie homages to Mad Max: Fury Road.”

The movie offers a fun experience with a good sense of humor and maintains a consistent computer-animated aesthetic throughout. Clocking in at just 90 minutes including credits, it’s short, sweet, and doesn’t overstay its welcome. However, there’s a lingering sense, particularly evident during moments like the Rainbow Road sequence, that you might find more enjoyment from playing a Mario game together instead of watching the movie.

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