A Super Time with "The Super Mario Bros. Movie"
Being around the early eighties when Mario and his brother made their debut I could never imagine a movie about an Italian plumber from Brooklyn evading obstacles could be such fun on the big screen. But this tale of Mario and Luigi saving the universe from an amped up evil turtle called Bowser is an entertaining escapist endeavor for the whole family.
The question becomes, how can the creators, screenwriter Mathew Fogel and directors Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic, tell a meaningful story with a beginning, middle and end, tied together with a plot that involves video game characters? Well, I guess it was easier than I thought. The main drive of successful stories is that the main character should have one objective while there is an impediment keeping them from it. It seems video games are made under the same norms. The game has the Mario Bros. running through obstacles, I assume to save the world from the evil, Bowser (Jack Black). The film doesn't stray far from that premise adding in an origin story about the brothers to tack on viewing minutes.
The brothers are just starting out on their own as plumbers so they produce a commercial for their business that yells "80's!" This lets us know the story takes place in the 80's and it fits snuggly in that time period. Its fun to watch the caricature of Brooklyn Italians that was so prevalent in cinema during the 70's and 80's. So much so you realize that popular stories of New York Italians haven't been done in films in more than two decades (not including "The Sopranos"). So it's fun watching a "tribute" to that time in film. Mario and Luigi's family are not so much caricatures (skeptical father, supporting mother) as they're meant to show us what motivates the boys.
Under the heading of "being at the right place at the right time," a major malfunction of the New York City sewer system ignites the boys into action. In their attempt to "save Brooklyn," which they feel will be good for business, they discover a labyrinth of tunnels underneath the city. Unfortunately, one of the pipes in this labyrinth sucks them into another dimension. The brothers get separated, Luigi (Charlie Day) lands in the Dark World and Mario (Chris Pratt) in Mushroom World.
Luigi is quick to be captured and imprisoned by Bowser who is in the midst of conquering all around him. Next up the Mushroom World. The leader of Mushroom World is Princess Peach (Anya Taylor-Joy), no push-over, who decides to join forces with the Kongs, a planet of apes, where we meet Nintendo's most famous ape, Donkey Kong. After the movie throws in the fireworks by putting Mario through training and a battle with Donkey Kong the two sides join forces to stop Bowser. This is where the obsticles from the video game make an appearance. We're able to watch without much stake considering its Mario's movie and he should make it through. It is exciting to watch and gives an adrenaline rush to a mundane story-line. Mixed with wonderful animation and a lively score the visuals for this film are detailed enough to balance out the banality of the story. It is a ride.
What gives this movie its gravatas and will keep it timely is the bond between the two brothers. Mario, the more assertive one who is there to get his brother out of trouble and Luigi whose passivity seems to attract trouble instead of repeal it. It is one of the more heart felt animated sibling bonds I've watched. It creates a sense of urgency as Mario ventures in finding his brother while dread creeps up over Luigi's predicament. The creators did a nice job of giving Luigi a sweetness while infusing Mario with a thread of doubt that makes his determination admirable.