By ED KDONIAN
I was apprehensive about this one. I mean for anyone who has grown up playing the many “Super Mario Bros.” games, the fear that the use of characters and lore will end up being overdone is valid. However, despite a few instances of ‘it’s here because it’s from Mario,’ I think the movie was rather well done.
In many ways, the opening of this movie is a tribute to the live action “Super Mario Bros. Movie” released in 1993. Two brothers, struggling to make their name as famous plumbers in New York, desperately rely on hard work and a flashy commercial to give them a leg up on the competition. While trying to save the city from a plumbing emergency, they suddenly find themselves traveling through a magic pipe and entering the magical world that we all know, and love, from the video games.
Chris Pratt and Charlie day, who voice Mario and Luigi respectively, are able to deliver just enough flavor from the games to pay tribute to the original characters without overdoing it and making it feel cheesy. Mario’s traditional catchphrase makes its appearance enough to make its mark, though viewers may have felt it was a little too much by the third time they heard “Mamma Mia.” Despite, the mildly egregious use of catchphrases, the movie did a great job of utilizing features of the game in a dynamic and entertaining way.
Almost from the first moment of the film, there is a fascinating integration of video game mechanics and the idea that these characters are living a traditional life. While Mario and Luigi struggle to get their plumbing business off the ground, they still find themselves rushing through the busy streets of New York as if traversing the obstacles of a side-scroller.
By the time the Mario has entered the mushroom kingdom the movie has already given the viewer a deep feeling that they are entering the world of a video game. In a weird twist of fate, the physics of the world through the pipe are only marginally more game-like than those in the world of Earth. Yes there are power-ups like fire flowers and magic mushrooms, but they take a back seat to the clear and genuine physicality of Mario having to overcome obstacles through force of will and his never-give-up attitude.
Despite its attention to detail and traditional elements of the Mario world, the movie also managed to diverge from the traditional story of saving the princess. In fact, in this iteration of Mario, the princess is a key member of the team doing the saving. From the moment Mario first meets Princess Peach she is shown to be a strong and capable female lead in her own right.
As leader of the Mushroom Kingdom, it is Peach’s job to protect her people, the toads, and secure their safety from the evil forces of Bowser. A job she does with no small amount of talent and physical skill. She demonstrates these skills while giving Mario a crash course in how to live in a video game world as she dips, dodges and zooms her way through an obstacle course complete with mechanical piranha plants, floating blocks of brick and dangerous Bullet Bills.
With Bowser on his way to the Mushroom Kingdom, and hope growing dimmer by the moment, Peach decides to seek out the help of the Kong Kingdom. It is here that Mario’s traditional rival, and sometimes friend, first makes an appearance in the film. Voiced by Seth Rogan, Donkey Kong manages to bring comedy, strength and just enough animosity to really breathe life into the complex relationship the pair has had over the life of the franchise.
With all the players on the field, the animated story of Mario and Luigi’s entry into the video game world that brought their names to people planet-wide is a fantastical journey through countless references to the entire franchise of games. Every character manages to fully represent the games they first appeared in while still evolving and growing in a natural way that helps the movie to feel more an homage than a re-hashing of the original media. While references to the cornucopia of material available in the Mario universe may be laid on a bit thick at times, the movie still manages to bring a fresh flavor to the expansive background that all the games provide. Whether you’re a dedicated fan of “Super Mario Bros.,” or just a fan of animated films, the movie provides a little something for everyone and any age.
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