Mario Bros: Illumination Finally Made a Good Movie


Universal Pictures

Peach is an absolute girlboss in the Mario Movie, unlike every other iteration of the character, and literally teaches Mario everything he knows in the games. Other than that, the mario movie’s plot is pretty much just the classic repeated mario story. On the bright side, it gets brought to life with stunning animation and much-appreciated Nintendo crossovers and easter eggs. All of the easter eggs and Nintendo characters brought together on the big screen, feel like an homage to Nintendo by Hollywood.
When it comes to the animation style, easter eggs, and characters of the movie(aside from Mario), Jack Black had pretty much my exact take. He exclaimed, “I was thrilled by the way it turned out. It looks amazing. I mean those colors…on like that rainbow highway in the mario kart sequence, I was like damn, this is like a psychedelic trip!” He went on to explain how attached the movie was to the video games (through Miyamoto directly), “And if you’re a fan of the games, you catch all those little easter eggs and all those characters…they were really true to the source material y’know I think they did an incredible job bringing it all to the screen.”
I remember this one scene perfectly from the movie solely from how connected it was to the games. In the movie, a bullet bill sits on a koopa troopa, and the koopa troopa goes into it’s shell and bounces back and forth between the bullet bill and the side of the seat until the bullet bill hits the top of the koopa troopa’s shell, and the koopa troopa stops moving immediately. This sits in my mind so well, because when you jump on a koopa troopa as Mario in the game, it bounces left and right on screen until you jump on it again to stop it or pick it up. It’s actually my favorite scene, I think it unlocked some Mario nostalgia in me. But honestly the whole movie probably did because the animation was gorgeous and exactly what I would’ve dreamed the mushroom kingdom as a kid.
The thing about the movie that threw me for a loop, was the grandness and scale of the animation. Illumination hasn’t had a great animation track record, with a history of lazy and forgettable films like Despicable Me and Sing. Illumination usually just makes scenes bland and unappealing, and repeat their movie assets, but with The Super Mario Bros. Movie they made everything from scratch with amazingly precise detail, but also on a scale so large that they could hide easter eggs of other Nintendo franchises/games for all the fans. In my opinion, it is Illumination’s greatest feat, and a wonderful homage to Nintendo. Many would expect an Illumination film to have entirely childish humor, but the humor is complex in some spots like how there’s this one star character that only talks in a depressed way to punish the characters, which is the complete opposite of how you think a star would act.
As most people were introduced to the movie through Jack Black’s song on Tiktok, most people can probably guess that he performed the most entertaining and believable role out of the cast. He’s got a gruff voice that makes sense for a oppressive dragon like Bowser, but contrasts perfectly with the character arc of Bowser (going from an opressive conqueror to a push-over in the face of love). Black fully understood that this contrast was the core of the humor in the Bowser character as he points out, “And the fact that he had some different sides, some unexpected insecurities and sensitivities, that’s where the comedy was.” You can also clearly tell that he was fully committed to the character and enjoyed the role, because he took the time after the movie finished to record and film the rest of his amazing “Peaches” song that gets cut off during the movie. And also because for him apparently, “Playing evil is fun automatically.” What is interesting is that Jack Black attributes most of the success of the character to the director and writers, saying “The director was like getting a line from one of the writers… and they’re like okay they want you to try this…. So we were like messing around and building a library of options as we went.”
Chris Pratt’s vocal performance on the completely other hand was uninspiring and subpar. His accent is vaguely Italian, but he does not come anywhere near close to the original Charles Martinet voice that is almost a stereotype Italian voice. Since Pratt’s accent is only vaguely Italian, it’s in an uncanny middle ground that you can tell is a New York accent but not necessarily Italian. Another consequence of Chris Pratt’s vagueness, is the main character, Mario, feeling more like a plot device to allow us to access the more convincing and flamboyant characters. Mario is easily drowned out by the amazing performance of Jack Black’s Bowser role and the visually stunning Mushroom Kingdom. Mario getting drowned out then gets compounded by the fact that Peach literally needs to teach Mario how to run, jump, and attain power ups, which are the most basic of objectives in the games. From the research I’ve done, it seems that most people prefer the performances of Mario voice actors in foreign country adaptations compared to Chris Pratt’s voice.
When Chris Pratt addressed internet concern about his voice acting in the movie trailer, “You don’t want someone to come along, and cynically destroy it as a cash grab movie. I fully understand that,” he technically wasn’t lying. He went on to say, “The movie really honours the video game.…It honours the world of Mario.” Chris Pratt did not cynically destroy the movie, because the movie is visually stunning, a high budget blockbuster, and pays homage to the Mario games through easter eggs and game series mashups. Illumination and Nintendo clearly weren’t in it for a cash grab, but I think Chris Pratt was in it for the paycheck, as he is the only actor that does a mediocre vocal performance at best.
Anya Taylor-Joy’s vocal performance for Peach was fiery and confident in herself, and was the most independent version of Peach I believe we’ve ever seen in the Mario universe. I think the fans are appreciative of the new take, and I hope to see her reprise the role for another girlboss Peach in whatever movie Nintendo and Illumination have planned next.
According to interviews with Shigeru Miyamoto (creator of Mario) and Chris Meladandri, Nintendo and Illumination will continue on with a projected successful partnership. Chris Meladanri had one hope for the Mario movie in his interview, “What we are looking for at Illumination is to bring joy to audience members.” In regards to Miyamoto’s view on Nintendo and Illumination’s partnership, he had this to say, “Even though we work in different mediums and industries, I felt strongly that Chris and I share the same thinking process in terms of developing creativ[ely].” He continued, “I think Chris’ team’s primary focus was on the story and creating an emotional adventure that will fit within 90 minutes, and is easy to understand, but on the other hand, Nintendo’s focus was to make sure every moment, every action, and every animation felt right to the smallest detail.” He summed up that for Nintendo, “Each sequence of events needs to be perfect and complete and Chris’ team was very good at finding the right balance and incorporating those fine details and actions into the sequences in an efficient way; I felt they were good at that.”