After three long decades, a new Super Mario Bros movie has arrived–and it’s pretty great! The animated film was made with all sorts of love for the Mario IP, but much more importantly: It’s crafted with skill and genuine cleverness. It’s a good movie, full stop. But it’s also a good Mario movie.
If you want a spoiler-free discussion to help you decide if you want to make a trip to the theater this week, you can and should check out GameSpot’s Super Mario Bros. Movie review. Otherwise, below I’ll break down some of the very best moments, characters and action sequences that make The Super Mario Bros Movie such a winner. As such: there are major spoilers ahead for The Super Mario Bros Movie. You have been warned.
That Super Mario Bros. plumbing commercial
The Super Mario Bros Movie starts with a cold open that shows Bowser’s ongoing conquest of the universe that the Mushroom Kingdom is in–we saw a condensed version of this scene in the first trailer for the movie. It sets the epic stakes of the story and is full of faux-gritty seriousness. And then it cuts to a local plumbing commercial, starring Brooklyn’s own Mario and Luigi, complete with a ditty inspired by the Super Mario Bros Super Show theme song.
The commercial is hilarious in its own context, but the hard cut from the epic fantasy prologue to this goofy riff is such a great joke that it makes the bit twice as funny.
With Jack Black playing Bowser, it only makes sense that he’d have a musical number. And that musical number here is a ballad for Princess Peach–the plot is that Bowser will wreck the Mushroom Kingdom unless Peach marries him, and this song is his expression of his obsessive, stalker-ish feelings toward her.
It also more or less sounds like it could plausibly be a Tenacious D song. And with that being the case, this musical counterprogramming would have been welcome even if Peaches had been just an okay song. But it’s not just okay–it’s hilarious.
That depressed Blue Luma Star
When Luigi is captured by Bowser, he’s placed in an elaborate dungeon where every cell is a cage hanging from a chain over a lava pit. While Luigi may still be new here, others have apparently been stuck in there for a long time. One such being is a Blue Luma Star, with the voice of a child, who wants nothing more than to experience the sweet embrace of death.
It’s an impossibly weird running gag for a children’s movie, but it works because of the dramatic disconnect between the cuteness of the star and its toddler voice, and the disturbing nature of his desires. Even better: the nihilistic asides from this Luma Star get more and more hilarious as the movie goes along and the stakes ramp up.
When it comes to the Kong family, everybody’s always focused on Donkey Kong. That makes sense, of course, since he’s the title character in his subfranchise–but in The Super Mario Bros Movie, he has to take a backseat to the true king of Kong Country: Cranky Kong, voiced by Fred Armisen.
Armisen is just doing a Fred Armisen character here, meaning Cranky Kong is dry and sarcastic and, well, cranky. But maybe most important is that he’s got very low energy compared with every other major character–that contrast is a surprising delight.
In order to secure the help of the Kong family against Boswer, Mario has to fight Donkey Kong one-on-one. No big deal, right? This is, after all, Mario’s origin in the old Donkey Kong arcade game.
Well, it turns out that a little human is facing a bit of an uphill battle when it has to go up against a giant ape voiced by Seth Rogen. But the secret to Mario’s survival is, as always, power-ups. And in this case, the power-up he uses to defeat Donkey Kong is the cat suit from Super Mario 3D World. Maybe the cat jokes get a little bit obvious at times, but Cat Mario is still one of the movie’s best out-of-left-field bits.
Once they’ve obtained the aid of the Kongs, it’s time for Peach and Mario and everybody else to go to war. And so they take a shortcut: the Rainbow Road. But they’re not gonna pull out the most famous Mario Kart track without making it a chase–and oh boy is this a chase.
Has there ever been a truly great car chase in a big-budget animated movie? One that was truly in the same category as the best live-action car movie car chases? Not until now, I don’t think. But this Rainbow Road sequence uses every 3D and only-possible-with-animation camera trick they’ve got to put together a Mad Max: Fury Road-quality chase sequence. And it’s beautiful, too.
Chris Pratt and Charlie Day don’t deploy their exaggerated Mario Bros accents too often, but throughout the film Mario will casually drop a Mario-ism during key moments, usually a “MAMMA MIA!” I didn’t love most of those interjections, but at the very end of the movie, when Mario is all beat up but has to do something soon or his home in Brooklyn will be destroyed, he utters an almost muted “Let’s-a-go!” before springing into action that had me rolling.
I don’t know if the “Let’s-a-go!” actually fits with the movie better than the instances of “Mamma Mia!” But I’m pretty sure it’s a funnier joke, at least.
The products discussed here were independently chosen by our editors.
GameSpot may get a share of the revenue if you buy anything featured on our site.