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The Super Mario Bros. Movie Review: Its-a Thin but Fun

The Pitch: Okay, there are these two brothers, see? And they’re plumbers. In fact, the Mario brothers (Chris Pratt as Mario, Charlie Day as Luigi) have just opened up their own plumbing business, though despite Mario’s natural agility, business could be better. That’s why, when a massive water emergency shakes up their home borough of Brooklyn, they leap at the chance to save their borough — only to stumble upon a mysterious pipe, deep within the sewers, that transports them away to a wild new universe.

Separated on the trip, Mario finds himself in the Mushroom Kingdom, where he meets Toad (Keegan-Michael Key) and Princess Peach (Anya Taylor-Joy), whose help he’s going to need if he’s going to rescue Luigi from the clutches of Bowser (Jack Black). Fortunately, this wild new world includes magical fungi that give you special powers if you eat them — so Mario’s gonna have to get over his hatred of mushrooms…

Good News, Moms and Dads: I’ll just cut to the chase here, for any parents reading this — it might not be the best film of the year, but you’re going to be able to watch The Super Mario Bros. Movie more than once without losing your dang mind. Can’t say for sure how many repeat viewings it’ll hold up under, but the new animated film, clocking in at a tight 93 minutes, is a fast-paced, visually appealing, and overall loving tribute to the Nintendo games enjoyed now by multiple generations.

That’s games, plural, for a reason: The pretty thin narrative somehow also manages to feel a little overstuffed, in order to incorporate both another iconic Nintendo character (Donkey Kong, voiced by Seth Rogen) as well as an extended sequence bringing the beloved Mario Kart franchise to the screen. (The sequence is done well, but… real talk, the Wachowskis did it better.)

The needle drops are sometimes fun but wielded with brute force — we’re talking Beastie Boys’ “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” blaring as the brothers run through the streets of Brooklyn. Fortunately, there’s no attempt at dated topical humor, no grating musical numbers. (Black’s Bowser gets all the songs, leaning hard on his heavy metal chops, and they’re pretty good.) Plus, any opportunity directors Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic have to include a Nintendo Easter egg… you’d better believe they use it.

The Super Mario Bros. Movie (Universal)

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