Review: The Super Mario Bros. Movie

Princess Peach is one of the most famous video game princesses of all time, so it's only fitting that she has her own movie. Okay, technically, it's The Super Mario Bros. Movie, but there was a lot of focus on presenting Peach in a way that would be acceptable by both fans and modern feminist standards. While I have been critical about the decline of femininity in the past (and still am), there was a lot that I found charming about the way her character was represented in this film. Yes, she was a badass "girl boss" who was able to do everything perfectly on her first try, but the new movie also expanded upon her backstory of how she became the princess of the Mushroom Kingdom, something that often got glossed over in the massive video game franchise because it typically focused more on gameplay than plot development. Aside from that, it was just a fun time at the theater in general.

The Super Mario Bros. Movie begins with the ordinary lives of Mario and Luigi as struggling plumbers in Brooklyn before their lives turn upside-down. There had been some strong reactions online to Chris Pratt playing the role of Mario, but his original voice actor, Charles Martinet, also had a role in the film as a character who helped Mario advertise his plumbing service by helping him to create the iconic silly Italian voice that most people are familiar with. After his first job with Luigi goes horribly wrong, the streets of Brooklyn get flooded due to a burst pipe in the sewers, and Mario and Luigi fall into it in their attempt to stop the flood and land on two different sides of the Mushroom Kingdom. Luigi wakes up in the "Dark Lands," where he is kidnaped by the wicked yet hilarious Bowser, while Mario finds himself on the outskirts of Princess Peach's colorful world. He is discovered by Toad, another recurring character from the games, who brings him to his beloved princess in the hopes that she can help Mario find his missing brother.

Like most princesses, Peach is presented as the hope of the  Mushroom Kingdom. The mushroom people see themselves as small and helpless, and Princess Peach leads and inspires them with her caring leadership. As soon as she learns that Bowser poses a threat to her peaceful land, she wastes no time in embarking on a quest to recruit the Kong army to defend her people. That's when she runs into Mario and learns that his brother was taken by Bowser as well. Then Peach proceeds to give Mario a crash course on the rules of the world, which is when the movie starts to really pack in the video game references, which come in droves. She teaches him about power-ups, platforming, and jumping. Mario struggles with these new physics just as much as I did when I tried to play the original Super Mario World video games for the first time.

Peach tries to make Mario feel better by telling him she had just as much trouble as he did the first time she tried to conquer the Mushroom Kingdom's obstacles but then admits that she did everything perfectly on her first try. This was the one part of the movie where modern princess standards got in the way of her character development. It isn't that Peach should always be a helpless damsel in distress. After all, she was the one to rescue Mario in Super Princess Peach. It's just that princesses tend to be more relatable when they have problems and struggles like everyone else, which makes it easier for us to imagine ourselves in their shoes (or glass slippers). After all, the movie allowed Mario to be relatable. What I did like was that it provided some backstory regarding how Peach's first memory is landing Mushroom Kingdom, where she was raised by its inhabitants and made their leader. Mario was the first human she ever saw, and she had an Ariel-like curiosity about his world, which could provide some great content for future movies.

My favorite thing about this film was the animation. All the characters looked like they stepped right out of the games. The world was bright, colorful, and fun. It was a much better alternative to the awful live-action movie that came out in 1993. Maybe this should serve as a lesson to Disney that fans would prefer animated remakes of live-action movies instead of live-action remakes of animated ones. There were also some fantastic remixes of the iconic music from the games that made the movie a lot of fun for anyone who is even a little familiar with them. With the exception of some exaggerated capabilities for Peach's character, I like that it didn't come off as too modern by keeping the snark to a minimum. It was very nostalgic and almost felt like watching something from the '90s. If you're into adventure, fun, and nostalgia The Super Mario Bros. Movie is the first one I've seen in a while to get it right.


Alysa Salzberg said…
I hadn't thought of this as a princess movie - but you are so right! I saw this with my family and we all loved it, especially my 9 year-old son. I agree that it was great that Peach was kept very girly but also was badass in her own right. I also agree with you about how well done the movie was overall. It was so fun!
And back to Peach: Although it's not the style I'd choose, and although it's far from the most important thing about her portrayal in the movie, I thought her wedding dress, with its pink touches, was really gorgeous.
Lisa Dawn said…
Hi Alysa,

I haven't played it, but I read that the wedding dress/scene was probably inspired by a game called Super Mario Odyssey. You can watch the ending here:

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