From Pixels to the Big Screen: Unraveling “The Super Mario Bros. Movie

A brief review of one of our favorite video game icons making it to theaters worldwide.


Official Poster for the Super Mario Bros. Movie

Johnny Chirayil, Social Media Editor

When it comes to video game-themed movies, they all end in a flop. Unlike the actual games, where the player decides how the story will end, movies are carried by a protagonist who decides how the tale unfolds.  Illumination’s latest installment, however, turns a new leaf for the genre. Enter the world of the one and only Super Mario, a famous video game character who’s been an icon for over 40 years.

When I heard about the movie’s announcement, I was skeptical about how it would execute its performance, especially with the odd choice of voice actors for our favorite characters. Many fans were frantic about Chris Pratt being the voice of Mario, since that meant Mario wouldn’t be using his iconic Italian accent. Jack Black, on the other hand, who is the voice of the villainous Bowser is quite an interesting choice. Black is not known for playing villainous roles in his movies, but he excels in playing more light-hearted and comedic characters instead. Lastly, we have Keegan-Michael Key voicing the grubby-talking Toad. I expected Key’s voice would be a bit mighty for Toad’s incapacitate personality. 

Eventually, the first trailer came out, and to my surprise, Jack Black did a phenomenal job voicing Bowser. I was also delighted to see how Keegan-Michael Key was able to pull off Toad, even if he didn’t use the grubby voice from the Mario games. Although Chris Pratt didn’t do a bad job voicing Mario, it may take some time to adjust to his portrayal since he doesn’t use an Italian accent, which is traditionally associated with the character.

Regardless of the voice choices, the movie does an excellent job of making its nostalgic comebacks to both the games and other vast media. Many fans were ecstatic when Illumination created an unofficial Super Mario Bros. plumbing commercial with the “Super Mario Bros. Super Show” theme song playing in the background. They even give you a phone number to dial. Dial the number and you’ll hear a 40-second message from Luigi. That’s what I call a great marketing strategy. 

The movie also makes a wide amount of references to games, including the background music. In the scene where Toad walks Mario through the Mushroom Kingdom, you can hear classic tracks such as “Toad’s House” from “Super Mario Bros. 3,” “Bob-omb Battlefield” from “Super Mario 64,” and the overworld theme from “Super Mario World.” My favorite was when they used the DK Rap from “Donkey Kong 64” for Donkey Kong (Seth Rogen) when he made his entrance when he was about to fight Mario.

I love how the movie tackles a whole new concept to its plot. Most Mario stories are about defeating Bowser and saving Princess Peach. Instead, Luigi (Charlie Day), Mario’s brother, is the one who needs to be rescued this time. Before the brothers enter the Mushroom Kingdom, they discover a warp pipe in the sewers that instantly transports them to a different world, but Luigi takes a different path and falls into Bowser’s trap, and it’s up to Mario to save him. 

Mario knows he can’t take the journey alone, so he teams up with Princess Peach (Anya Taylor-Joy) to help him overcome whatever obstacles Bowser throws. Unlike the games, Peach becomes Mario’s mentor, and she helps him learn the level design and typical power-ups, such as the red mushroom and fire flower. This goes to show how Peach can be capable of handling threatening situations whenever Mario isn’t around, rather than being the traditional damsel-in-distress from the games. She has her very own character, and I love the unique adaptation to it. 

Afterward, Mario and Peach ally with Donkey Kong and his army, and they all gear themselves into racing karts so they can reach Bowser as soon as possible. Yet, that all falls down as the Koopa army invades the racing session, leading Mario and Donkey Kong to fall off the track and get consumed by a giant eel. Thanks to the Koopa army, Bowser arrives at the Mushroom Kingdom sooner than he expected. Mario is now gone, and the Kong army is defeated, giving Peach no choice but to marry Bowser so no more innocent lives get hurt. 

Luckily for Mario and Donkey Kong, they find leftover parts of Donkey Kong’s kart and use the rocket engine to escape the eel. They manage to arrive before the Koopa army takes over the Mushroom Kingdom, and an epic battle commences. Mario then saves Luigi just in time before he sinks into the lava pit. 

Just when Bowser is about to face defeat, he launches a giant bullet bill to destroy the entire Mushroom Kingdom, but Mario lures the bullet into a warp pipe, which causes a massive explosion to transport everyone into Mario’s hometown, Brooklyn. Mario sets his final fight with Bowser in the middle of town, and Luigi teams up with him. The brothers get their hands on Bowser’s power star and put his whole reign to an end, saving Brooklyn and the Mushroom Kingdom. With Bowser defeated, Mario and Luigi carry on their plumbing career in the Mushroom Kingdom, and the movie concludes with a satisfying ending. 

Overall, Illumination has done a fantastic job with the movie. The film made many references to the games to please all Mario fans alike. Not to mention, Charles Martinet, the original voice of Mario, made a cameo as Mario’s initial design from the Donkey Kong arcade game, and he also voices Mario’s dad. It is delightful to see the producers still wanted Charles to participate in the movie, even if he didn’t voice our hero. 

Despite that, everyone who contributed to the project, along with Mario’s creator, Shigeru Miyamoto, has created a joyful masterpiece for all audiences to enjoy. I was initially doubtful about the strange choice of voice actors, but they executed their roles perfectly. I hope to see them perform again if a sequel is in the works. 

Nevertheless, I definitely recommend seeing “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” if you are a long-time fan of the iconic Italian plumber. Even if you don’t know anything about Mario, you will still be immersed in a world of fun and adventure.