‘The Super Mario Bros. Movie’ was just released in theaters worldwide and it seems to be doing well. The theatrical adaptation of the beloved video game franchise is a box office success, having grossed $434.33 million in North America and $871 million globally, just three weeks in. And while the announcement of video game adaptations is constantly met with an equal mix of both excitement and anxiety; just remember all those failed attempts, the faded confidence in movie studios in this regard is valid; these have trended in the right direction due to the likes of Pokémon: Detective Pikachu and HBO’s The Last of Us.
But despite this, making the headlines as we neared the release of the highly-awaited film were not die-hard Mario fans threatening Universal Pictures in the case of the film being substandard, instead, it was because Chris Pratt was cast to voice the turtle-stomping plumber. Much of the criticism was directed at the fact that Pratt was chosen instead of Charles Martinet, who has been the character’s voice actor for over three decades now. Furthermore, the trailer proved that this iteration of Mario would not be leaning too much into his Italian roots, giving a mix of his heritage influenced by his time living in Brooklyn. In short, we were not getting a straight-up Italian Mario.
Having watched the film, however, I can confidently say that Pratt’s performance as Mario was acceptable. Sure, some moments leaned too heavily towards making references to the video game, but that can be attributed to writing, and it was done so sparingly. But as for the actual voice acting, it was sufficient, nowhere near as immersion-breaking as others would have expected. I did not hear an animated Star-Lord or Chris Pratt making impressions on Jimmy Fallon. I heard a Mario fit for the big screen.
By that I mean, a Mario who is aptly coherent and normal-sounding enough that I feel as if I would be able to hold a conversation with him without breaking into uncontrollable laughter. Anyone who feels otherwise is entitled to their own opinion, but I believe that it’s just an instance of die-hard fans not knowing what they really want, all while holding onto the nostalgia of a bygone time.
An exaggerated Italian Mario accent works well for the video game because we’re not playing it to hear his voice. Sure these short and sweet lines add depth and soul to the character, but we’re there to save Princess Peach and stomp on anyone who gets in our way. In a film where we’re expecting him to hold a proper conversation with other characters to drive the narrative forward, that simply won’t work. If any, it would actually be immersion-breaking because we’d get stuck thinking how on earth these characters are taking him seriously when he sounds like that.
Take a look at this video by GameXplain comparing the voice acting in the movie with that of the games. Can you imagine hearing that in the film? Probably not. And even Anya Taylor-Joy’s performance as Princess Peach resulted in a deeper and much more realistic tone than what we are used to.
A normal-sounding guy makes sense. But that doesn’t mean totally removing what makes Mario, Mario. The film does this well by gracing us with the occasional “wahoo” and “It’s-a me, Mario”. And although these may come unexpectedly, making it seem out of place, or even gimmicky, these serve to remind us that they’re not completely doing away with the character we’ve grown to love. You all wanted nostalgia and references, well here you go.
And as ‘The Super Mario Bros. Movie’ has amassed so much success with so little time, it’s proven to be quite the entertaining watch despite the amount of doubt it faced heading into its release. Sure, the verdict on Pratt’s performance is still up in the air for those that haven’t watched the film, but trust me, it’s not as bad as others have made it out to be.
The film’s official synopsis reads: “While working underground to fix a water main, Brooklyn plumbers Mario (CHRIS PRATT, Jurassic World, and The LEGO Movie franchises) and brother Luigi (CHARLIE DAY, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Horrible Bosses) are transported down a mysterious pipe and wander into a magical new world. But when the brothers are separated, Mario embarks on an epic quest to find Luigi.”
“With the assistance of a Mushroom Kingdom resident Toad (KEEGAN-MICHAEL KEY, Key & Peele, The Lion King) and some training from the strong-willed ruler of the Mushroom Kingdom Princess Peach (ANYA TAYLOR-JOY, The Queen’s Gambit, The Menu), Mario taps into his own power.”
‘The Super Mario Bros. Movie’ was directed by Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic. The cast features Chris Pratt, Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Day, Jack Black, Keegan-Michael Key, Seth Rogen, Fred Armisen, Sebastian Maniscalco, Charles Martinet, and Kevin Michael Richardson.
Images courtesy of Universal Pictures