After Italian-American plumbers, Mario and Luigi, save the city of Brooklyn from a water leak, the brothers are accidentally transported to another world, and split up. Luigi ends up in a spooky realm, where he is promptly taken prisoner, while Mario finds himself deposited in the bright and picturesque wonderland that is the Mushroom Kingdom.

Confused about where he is, but keen to track down his brother, Mario befriends a humanoid mushroom-man, before setting off to meet with the Kingdom’s ruler, Princess Peach. Mario believes that with Peach’s help, he will be able to find Luigi and return home.

But while Peach is keen to help Mario, she has problems of her own. The evil warlord, Bowser (the King of the Koopas), is on his way to the Mushroom Kingdom to take control of the throne.

In order for Peach to stop Bowser, she will require all the assistance she can. This leads Mario to work side-by-side with Peach, as well as new friend Donkey Kong, to track down Luigi and put an end to Bowser’s reign of tyranny.

Image: ©Universal Pictures/Nintendo
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Directed by Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic, and written by Matthew Fogel, The Super Mario Bros. Movie is an animated action-adventure comedy, which is based on the popular Nintendo gaming characters of the same name. The movie features the voices of Chris Pratt, Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Day, Jack Black, Keegan-Michael Key, and Seth Rogen, and is new to UK and US cinemas from today.

The film marks the third time a Mario movie has been released, and arrives on the big screen just in time for the Easter weekend. The Super Mario Bros. Movie is being viewed as one of the key releases for the forthcoming holiday period, with plenty of promotional tie-ins and toy releases connected to the film, and Universal Pictures and Nintendo are hoping for big things from the movie.

And based purely on the iconic status of the Mario brand itself, as well as the number of mums, dads, and nans I saw taking young kids to the cinema to see this film, I expect it will do quite well. This film feels ready-made for the holidays, as well as for some cross-generational viewing, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it sells a lot of tickets.

However, it is with a very heavy heart that I must confess that I don’t believe The Super Mario Bros. Movie is a good film. While I believe the production team set out with good intentions, and were keen to deliver a picture that would appeal to newcomers and die-hard fans, ultimately, I believe they have failed.

The Super Mario Bros. Movie is a mess of film. The story is barely coherent, the humour falls flat, and the whole thing feels like a patchwork piece, with various scenes bolted onto each other with no real flow.

To add to all this, the film is occasionally dull, and largely quite boring. Anyone over the age of 12 is likely to find their mind wandering for sections of the film, or they will simply find themselves overwhelmed by the sheer number of in-jokes, gaming references, or musical cues that are rammed into the picture.

In short: This film is not great. It’s not the worst film ever, but it is a misfire and quite the disappointment.

Image: ©Universal Pictures/Nintendo
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*Sigh*

Now, before I go any further, I think it is very important for me to say a couple of things about myself in relation to Mario and the Super Mario Bros. gaming franchise. I’m not a Mario-hater, far from it in fact, I am someone who loves Mario games and has done for years.

Out of all the video games characters in existence, Mario is my No.1 guy. I count 1985’s Super Mario Bros. as my all-time favourite game; I’ve owned pretty much every Nintendo console that has been released (with the exception of the N64); and back in 1993 I went to the cinema to watch the (sadly misjudged) live-action picture, Super Mario Bros., which starred Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo.

I’ve also owned various bits of Mario merchandise; I’ve watched my fair share of the Mario cartoons; and only last weekend I was bashing buttons on Mario Kart 8 Deluxe for the Nintendo Switch. Heck, back in 1993 I even spent many an hour bopping around my bedroom to the long-forgotten dance track, ‘Supermarioland’, by the Ambassadors of Funk!

I’m telling you all this because I wear my Mario love with pride. I grew up on Mario and Nintendo, and I really (REALLY) wanted The Super Mario Bros. Movie to be the best Mario movie there could be. So, believe me when I say it pains me that I did not enjoy this film. I wanted to like it; I was ready to embrace it with open arms; but I just found it very tedious.

Image: ©Universal Pictures/Nintendo
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The Super Mario Bros. Movie suffers from a number of problems, which I will address in turn, beginning with the biggest issue: Its desire to have its cake and eat it. What I mean by this, is that the film attempts to put too much Mario content in the movie, over the expense of everything else.

Mario has been around for just over 40 years now, meaning there is a lot of material to draw from when making this film. Directors Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic, and writer Matthew Fogel, had access to a wealth of characters and ideas that they could put in the film, they just simply had to decide what to keep and what to exclude.

Unfortunately, rather than utilising some aspects of the Mario mythology, to create a starting point, before moving onto something new, they try to have it all. They overload the film with so many characters and background references, that it all becomes too much.

From Donkey Kong and Mario Kart, to endless power-ups and nods to the games, the film is relentless in its desire to please fans. Sure, it’s nice to acknowledge the fan-base, and to make a Mario film that looks like the games, but if I’m sitting down to watch a movie, I don’t need to be hit over the head with so many references.

Back in 2021, Warner Bros. overstuffed their Space Jam sequel, Space Jam: A New Legacy, with so many in-jokes, that it derailed the film very quickly. The Super Mario Bros. Movie falls into a similar trap, by being too quick to throw everything at the screen.

I am 100% sure that everyone involved in this movie is a BIG fan of the Mario games, but I am also 100% sure that someone needed to dial things back a little. My sole thought throughout the movie was the question: ‘What the heck have they saved for the sequel?!’

Hours after the movie finished, I am still asking myself this question. If this film gets a sequel (which it probably will), I have no idea where they will go with it.

Image: ©Universal Pictures/Nintendo
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The next big problem with the movie is that the story is very weak. Mario and Luigi go to the Mushroom Kingdom, they both meet a bunch of new friends and foes, then they have a fight with Bowser – and that’s pretty much it.

There’s very little in the way of anything else. OK, so there is a bit of character development here and there, but it’s nothing particularly new, interesting, or even well written.

Mario gets to go on a journey of sorts, but Luigi is largely left on the side-lines. I know this is a common occurrence in the games, and I’m aware that Mario is the go-to hero in most Mario stories, but if you’re going to call your film The Super Mario Bros. Movie, then make sure both brothers get lots to do!

As much as people criticise the 1993 Super Mario Bros. movie, at least that one gave both Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo an equal amount of screen time. This new film largely ditches Luigi for huge chunks of the action, effectively benching one of the title heroes!

Image: ©Universal Pictures/Nintendo

Moving swiftly onto problem number three, and it is centred around the casting. While I understand the reasons to get high-profile names attached to a big budget movie such as this, and it’s something that all animated films do, I still can’t quite fathom some of the casting choices here.

Chris Pratt voices Mario and he’s largely a misfire from start to finish. He’s not awful, but he makes next-to no impression, and just doesn’t feel like the right fit for the character.

I’m also not quite sure about Anya Taylor-Joy as Princess Peach. I’m a big fan of Taylor-Joy, and will watch her in anything (because she’s pretty much great in everything), but here this feels like another miscast.

The same can be said for most of the voice cast, who just feel somewhat off. The only exceptions are Jack Black as Bowser and Keegan-Michael Key as Toad, who both hit the ground running, and both nail their parts.

But beyond these two, it feels like this movie wasted a shed load of cash on big names that do nothing for the film. For a movie that feels very much like it is pieced together with cut scenes from the games, the producers might as well have just used the original voice actors.

Image: ©Universal Pictures/Nintendo

As for the rest of the issues in this movie, it’s mostly little things. The pacing is off, some of the human characters look a little creepy, and at no point is it as funny as it wants to be.

The movie is loaded with gags, but they just don’t seem to work. I chuckled once, the film got about two laughs out of the rest of the audience, and that was it.

I dare say that younger audiences won’t care about dud jokes, nor will they be all that arsed about the pacing of the film. Seeing Mario on the big screen, transforming himself into a cat, or gobbling down mushrooms, will be more than enough entertainment, so maybe this is just an age thing?

*Contemplates that last sentence for a moment*

Nah, it’s not just an age thing – this film is trying to hit the same target audience as most animated movies (i.e. all ages), but it’s just not getting it right. It stumbles and fumbles too many times, leaving only some of the audience interested.

I’m sure many will argue that this film simply isn’t aimed at me, as I’m in my 40s, and it is meant to be a kid’s film, but I would respectfully disagree. I believe it is aimed at my generation, as much as it is aimed at younger audiences, but it fails to get the balance right.

Image: ©Universal Pictures/Nintendo
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So, is it all bad? Well, no it’s not.

For the most part, The Super Mario Bros. Movie looks good, it offers plenty of action, and at around 90 minutes it feels relatively short. Those who grew up on the games will get a kick out of seeing some of their favourite characters on screen, and I’m sure some will like it much more than I did.

To repeat a couple of things I said earlier, I do believe this movie has been made with good intentions, and I do expect it to make lots of money. I just don’t think it’s all that great, and it’s certainly not the best movie currently available to watch over the Easter break.

If you have young children in the household and they are desperate to see The Super Mario Bros. Movie, then by all means take them to the cinema (if you can afford it), as they will enjoy it and you will be fine watching it. But if you’ve got teens, or even big kids in your house, then take them to see Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves or the re-release of Superman: The Movie instead, as these are far better films.

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Thank you for taking the time to read this review on It’s A Stampede!. For more reviews, check out the recommended reads below.

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