Written by Tiane Davis
Last week I was reminded of a great part of my childhood. I did not realize the influence Mario had on my life until the sweetest memories of my child were unearthed in the Searcy Cinema as I recognized references from games like Super Mario Galaxy, Luigi’s Mansion, Mario Kart and many more. I think we all need to feel like a kid again sometimes, and watching “The Super Mario Bros Movie” was the perfect remedy for me.
I was a little skeptical about the cast before I watched the movie. With Chris Pratt as Mario and Jack Black as Bowser, I pictured the movie being a little overpowered by their personalities. While there were definitely a few scenes where I thought, “Wow, this is such a Jack Black scene,” or “That sounded like a line Chris Pratt would say,” I think the actors are talented enough that it wasn’t too distracting. Many of the voice actors in the movie are so lovable anyway, that any scene where their personalities bled through was welcome.
Having Black play Bowser added a much-needed layer of character development. Rather than seeing the basic scary villain with no feelings, the audience got to see Bowser in moments of vulnerability during his heartbreak over Princess Peach. The scene where Black sang his self-produced song “Peaches” made Bowser seem harmless, which I think is a good trait for an antagonist to have in a children’s movie.
According to YouTuber Charles Cornell, “‘Peaches’ by Jack Black is unironically good.” In the comments section of a video he posted about the song, a few people pointed out that the song has a suspiciously similar chord progression to Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up.” Whether or not Black did this on purpose might forever be a mystery, but the thought that he might have Rick Rolled us all makes his casting as Bowser even more genius.
The movie seemed to have a similar character setup as the recent “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish,” with a strong female character, a brave but insecure male character and an airy supporting character. However, instead of a closed off, emotionally unavailable female lead, Princess Peach served as a supportive yet readily vulnerable character. I think it is safe to say that I have a new cartoon role model, and she happens to wear a poofy pink dress. I expected her character to be a walking cliche — the classic damsel in distress with no personality — but she had substance. Who can blame Mario for falling in love?
I have seen several movies based off of video games, so I know it takes talent to create a good storyline without getting too caught up in the irrelevant side quests or excessive inventory of power-ups. To be honest, I do not remember much of the plot because it was so predictable, and I am sure lots of people will complain about that. For me, however, part of the appeal of the Mario franchise is having a stress-free and predictable storyline — I think that is why all of the games are so comforting. For this reason, anything more than a basic plot would have been a crime to the Mario world.
The movie was a great sensory experience. Nothing compares to hearing familiar sound effects, seeing long-forgotten game maps or being reminded of overused character phrases. All it took was hearing the old GameCube startup jingle as Luigi’s ringtone to remember how iconic the Mario franchise is. The movie was sprinkled with classic “WAH-HOO”s and “MAMMA MIA”s from Mario and Luigi as well as characteristic NPC (non-playable character) Toad phrases such as “Thank you Mario, but our princess is in another castle!”
The thought that was on my mind as I walked out of the theater is that no matter how different each Mario game is, every version of each character has the same backstory. Every version of Mario we have played is essentially the same man, which gives us so much room for our imaginations. Any time I play Super Mario Bros, I can think about the other parts of Mario’s life, like how he actually hates eating mushrooms. Or every time I play Mario Kart, I can have fun thinking about how my character is not stuck in an endless Grand Prix mode — she has a life outside of racing. “The Super Mario Bros Movie” made me love the Mario franchise even more because I now have a higher appreciation for its characters.