The Super Mario Bros. Movie

When a Brooklyn water main breaks, sibling plumbers Mario (voice of Chris Pratt) and Luigi (voice of Charlie Day) race to solve the problem, but a mysterious pipe plummets them into another realm and they are separated.  Mario finds himself in the Mushroom Kingdom and with the help of its Princess Peach (Anya Taylor-Joy) and a commoner named Toad (Keegan-Michael Key) sets off to save his brother and her kingdom in “The Super Mario Bros. Movie.”

Laura's Review: B-

Illumination animation, the house behind those adorable Minions, partners with Nintendo, whose 1981 Donkey Kong arcade game spawned a franchise empire encompassing Super Mario Bros., to animate its video game world on the big screen.  The good news is that you don’t have to have much more than a passing familiarity with the games to enjoy the film, but fans are sure to revel in the details writer Matthew Fogel ("Minions: The Rise of Gru") and directors Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic ("Teen Titans Go!") lather on in various inventive and organic ways.  The bad news is that the film overstays its welcome, succumbing to never-ending climax syndrome.

The theme is brotherly love and parental approval, Mario standing up for his less confident sibling as he and Luigi’s new business venture is mocked by both their father and former boss Spike (Sebastian Maniscalco).  The brothers navigate a construction site on their way to their first job in a playful reference to the game, then successfully fix a leak before the client’s dog, seeking revenge on Luigi, wrecks havoc in a slapstick-filled sequence.  Mario sees that evening’s catastrophe in Brooklyn as a chance for redemption, but after marveling at the subterranean tiers of pipes, the brothers are sucked into one, then separated.

We’ve already been given a glimpse of where they’ve gone, the film beginning with the giant turtle Bowser (Jack Black), ruler of the dark lands, invading and imprisoning the blue birds known as Pidgits as he captures the Super Star which makes him all powerful.  This is where Luigi ends up and after fighting off skeletal turtles, he takes refuge in a Gothic castle (uh-oh), the sequence like something out of “A Nightmare Before Christmas.”  Meanwhile, Mario is led by a mushroom to the princess who just might be human and who, very unwittingly, is Bowser’s intended.  Princess Peach teaches Mario about power ups and, satisfied that he has what it takes, heads to the Jungle Kingdom to ask Cranky Kong (Fred Armisen) to join forces to defeat Bowser.  The original Donkey Kong game is trotted out as a prerequisite for their cooperation, Donkey Kong (Seth Rogen) none too pleased to end up assisting Mario.

Illumination’s candy-colored animation is a delight for the eyes, although an extended kart sequence on a rainbow leans into overkill.  And if one often wonders if celebrity-studded vocal casts are really necessary for most animations, “Super Mario” fails to make the case, only Jack Black and Taylor-Joy making much of an impression.  Game players will delight to hear the original voice of Mario, Charles Martinet, and whoever plays the imprisoned Luma Star with the fatalistic attitude nearly steals the movie.

Robin's Review: B-

Universal opens "The Super Mario Bros. Movie" in theaters on 4/7/2023.